Engineering detachment strives for premier status
August 7, 2012
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- Technical engineers working for the 156th Engineer Detachment (Survey and Design), 94th Engineer Battalion, 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, here conduct a variety of testing and analysis to ensure the products the engineers design will be built safely and offer longevity to the customer, says Staff Sgt. Nicholas Lawton, from Forreston, Ill., senior technical engineer, 156th En. Det., 94th En. Bn., 4th MEB, 1ID.
The engineers have done everything from a basic plaque all the way up to designed airfields, C-Huts, guard towers, the engineers have done a wide range of designing, and that's one of the things I really like about the engineers in this unit and how they like that diversity, said Lawton.
The difference between the 156th En. Det. and most engineering companies is the difference between quality assurance and quality control, said Lawton.
"When we design something . . . there is a long chain of checks and balances before we say, 'hey this is safe to build'," said Lawton, ". . . through the building process there are checks and balances, there is the 25 percent check, a 50 percent check, 75 percent check and the final check."
"Throughout the whole process there is always a check, there is always a balance, that is our way to mitigate any risk," said Lawton.
There are only a few engineering detachments providing survey and design to the entire Army. The units travel around the world to assist with Army and civilian projects.
Recently, a group from the 156th En. Det. was assigned to work with Joint Task Force-North to assist with bettering the roads for border patrols.
Pfc. Victor Ramos, McAllen, Texas, says he has been with the 156th En. Det. since Oct. 2009, and that he was on the team working on the border road improvements.
"In Arizona, there were three different locations and we were bouncing around all three of them," said Ramos.
"One project site was on top of a mountain and the actual border runs through there even though there is no actual fence there yet but there were look-out points," said Ramos, "the project was to make the roads better for the patrols to drive up to those look-out points."
The technical engineer school, or Advanced Individual Training, is 36 weeks long where students learn AutoCAD drafting, soil analysis, surveying, and other design skills.
Ramos says he used to own his own general contracting company prior to enlisting in the Army. He goes on to say the technical engineer military occupational specialty appealed to him as he would be able to work outside and not always be inside behind a desk.
"I like going on survey missions," says Ramos, "my favorite part is doing the actual surveying, collecting the data out in the field. I like to be outdoors, I'm an outdoor person, and when we survey, it takes us out to open areas and sometimes into wooded areas."
Pfc. Jason Villa, Scottsdale, Ariz., technical engineer, says he has been with 156th En. Det. since April 2011, and that this is his second duty station. He was in Germany prior to coming to Fort Leonard Wood, and goes on to compare his missions between the two units and what he likes about his job.
"We have a lot more missions here [156th En. Det.]," said Villa, "in Germany for the most part we trained up in case we ever got called to do something."
"If there is troubleshooting on any sort of equipment whether it be software or our gear, that's what I like about the job, there is something always unexpected that comes up," says Villa, "there could be a bottleneck in our project, or whatever phase we're in, and I just like being able to be out there whenever something gets locked up, just be able to say, 'ok, it could be something really simple and it's not always that complicated'."
When all the kinks have been worked out and the design is ready for implementation, the last stop in the quality checks at the unit level is Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jose M. Bermudez, native of Puerto Rico, a construction engineer technician with 21 years in the Army.
"From the battalion standpoint, I am the final approval before projects are pushed up to the brigade engineering cell," said Bermudez.
Mostly we ensure a quality product and that it is a safe product ready for construction - that is what quality assurance is, says Bermudez.
"We are a mini construction company, like the designing part of the general contractor," said Bermudez, "and because of our reputation right now, work requests come with specific pinpointing for the 156th."
"We're trying to be the premier engineer detachment in the Army," said Bermudez, "we're trying to be the best we can because Soldiers deserve something better."
Bermudez no longer wanted to speak about his contributions to this unit as he emphasized how proud he was of the technical engineers serving in the 156th En. Det.
"I want to highlight what these guys do, at the end of the day it's what they actually do that makes the difference, they have to get the information and make it happen," said Bermudez, "day in and day out they're the ones sweating and doing the work, and I want them recognized for their hard work."
The 156th En. Det. logo is "Tip of the Spear", and this is accurate when trying to realize all that these survey and design engineers encompass in their military tool bag.