Army Reserve Soldiers restore integrity to Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield
July 30, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- As summer heats up, so does the work schedule here for the 770th Engineer Company out of Penn Yan.
Soldiers of 770th Eng. Co., 479th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade, 412th Theater Engineer Command, are participating in extended combat training to accomplish occupation-specific tasks and to complete several base support missions during their annual, two week training here.
The primary mission, in support of 10th Mountain Division, is restoring the integrity of the existing runway at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield, said Sgt. Jason Hildebrand, platoon sergeant for the 770th and the operation's noncommissioned officer in charge.
The Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield is the 10th Mountain Division's rapid deployment facility.
The 770th has been tasked to construct two culverts through the runway of the existing airfield. These will divert water underneath the airstrip and road system to prevent a loss of integrity in a road or runway, said Hildebrand.
These culverts become essential in periods of melting snow or excessive rainfall; something that would be welcome in the dry, summer conditions.
The accomplishment of this task will permit the runway to conduct flight training operations for C-130 pilots in the Air Force, he said.
In addition to the runway restoration, soldiers of the 770th are also conducting some other minor projects at Fort Drum.
"We are doing several gravel-haul missions, as well, in support of range control public works, and moving concrete jersey barriers for the upcoming 10th Division Mountain Peak Competition," said Hildebrand.
The Mountain Peak competition is a 10th Mountain Division annual training event to evaluate units before their mission rehearsal exercises.
"The mission is going really well, " said Hildebrand. "The soldiers are responding efficiently to the assignments."
In the middle of the summer the heat has caused some challenges; the little rainfall and high winds caused spontaneous dust storms at the airfield. The soldiers had to train to solve problems occurring from the seasonal heat, said Hildebrand.
"We've accomplished our mission and then some," said 2nd Lt. Richard Verzoni, engineer operations officer in charge. "Beyond our assigned mission, our soldiers have performed well in support of 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum."
"We are running four missions simultaneously," said Verzoni. "We have 22 soldiers and 32 pieces of heavy equipment in the current operation across 20 square miles."
Maj. Gen. William Buckler, Jr., commander of the 412th Theater Engineer Command visited the airfield mid-operation to survey the 770th's progress.
"I am impressed with the work they have done here," said Buckler. "I saw advanced construction techniques I don't see often, and that is a sign of a higher level of training."
As the summer heat continues, the soldiers of the 770th can look to the end of a mission and an accomplishment that will benefit Fort Drum for years to come.