Training Troops on Heavy Equipment
January 16, 2009
Army reservists from Tennessee, Alabama, Pennsylvania and Texas spent last week training on heavy equipment at Redstone Arsenal.
Led by the 844th Engineer Battalion out of Knoxville, the training combined two military occupational specialties - 21 Echo (heavy construction equipment operator) and 21 Juliet (general construction equipment operator) - into one Super Echo specialty. The Army last October made the training mandatory for all Army Reserve units with Soldiers that carry a 21E or 21J specialty.
"The engineer transformation to modularity created a number of challenges for our battalion, one of which was the merging of the 21 Echo and 21 Juliet MOS's into a single MOS, being the Super Echo, the 21 Echo," 844th battalion commander Lt. Col. Adam Roth said. "The training that we're conducting at Redstone Arsenal facilitates everybody's transition to the new Super Echo MOS. The training includes over eight separate pieces of equipment, including both operations and maintenance of that equipment.
"The most important part of that training is that it is NCO planned, resourced and led. And we're delighted to be partners with Redstone Arsenal in conducting this outstanding training opportunity. Soldiers conducting this training come from as far away at Pittsburgh, Pa., Houston, Texas and Gray, Tenn., as many will be deploying in support of the War on Terror in the coming months utilizing their newly-trained skills."
This training was held Jan. 5-11 at the Redstone Landfill. The officer in charge was Sgt. 1st Class William Harper and his NCO was Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Addington. Both are members of the 702nd Engineer Company out of Gray, Tenn.
"The 844th right now is the first Army Reserve battalion to conduct this training," Harper said. "As of Oct. 1st, 2008 the training became mandatory. Army Reserve units have until the end of the fiscal year 2009 (by Sept. 30) to complete the training."
Other Reserve units that will deploy with the 844th also participated in the training. There were 75 Soldiers from Pittsburgh, Houston, San Antonio, Birmingham, Chattanooga, Greeneville (Tenn.), Knoxville, Gray and Huntsville.
"It gives a chance to get to know the units and the Soldiers prior to the actual mobilization," Harper said.
They included five Soldiers from the 808th Engineer Company in Houston, five from the 655th Engineer Company in San Antonio, four from the 465th Engineer Company in Birmingham under the 926th Engineer Group, 25 students and 11 instructors from the 702nd Engineer Company, one student and one instructor from the HHC Engineer Battalion in Knoxville, three students and two instructors from the 733rd Engineer Company in Greeneville, eight Soldiers from the Forward Support Company in Knoxville, six from the 390th Engineer Company in Chattanooga, three from the 375th Engineer Company in Huntsville, and two support people (including maintenance and medical support) from Huntsville.
"They'll be a more vital asset to the Army because they'll be qualified on more pieces of equipment," Harper said, "to include dozer, scraper, grader, hydraulic excavator, loader and the backhoe."
The battalion contacted Redstone Arsenal in early December and got the training site through the help of Henry Millican of base support contractor Chugach.
"Redstone was very helpful in the process," Harper said. "They allowed us to train here. They provided support with the dining facility here on post. And they were more than willing to help us with anything else that was required."
Logistics issues represented the largest challenge. Besides having Soldiers from so many locations, there was the movement of heavy equipment. Equipment came from Gray, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Fort Gillem, Ga., and Huntsville. This included two hydraulic excavators, two backhoes, two dozers, two loaders, two scrapers, two graders, light sets and heaters, four 5-ton dump trucks, a wrecker, a fueler, a contact truck, a Light Maintenance Tactical Vehicle and five rental vans.
"I think this is excellent training," Harper, 29, from Gray, said. "We have Soldiers from all over getting to work together in a real-world environment. The Soldiers are getting lots of one-on-one time with the instructors."
Huntsville resident Sgt. ReKeya Patterson, 28, was among the students. A Birmingham native, she is a member of the 375th Engineer Company in Huntsville.
"I think it's really good training," Patterson said. "It helps us. With every job, with more training you become better. Experience is the best teacher. We're getting more experience out here."
Sgt. Shawn Knauff, 25, of Mercer, Pa., belongs to the 655th Engineer Company in San Antonio.
"It's been pretty good so far," Knauff said of the training. "We've got quite a bit of time on the equipment here."
Among the instructors was Staff Sgt. Mark White, 42, of Erwin, Tenn., who belongs to the 702nd Engineer Company in Gray.
"Aside from the wet weather we've had, it's pretty good training for the Soldiers," White said. "It's basically getting them familiar with how to run the equipment."