Compared to other parts of the northeastern United States, Annville Pa. and its surrounding areas were spared the worst of Hurricane Sandy, but the storm created some unique challenges for the instructors and students at Regional Training Site-Maintenance, Fort Indiantown Gap.

On Oct. 29, 2012, Sandy's winds knocked down trees and electrical lines causing damage and power outages to a number of facilities on the installation, including the RTS-M, FIG building.

Two days after the storm the building still had neither heat nor electricity. Teaching was difficult, because the instructors couldn't access course material on the computers, but there was another problem. According to Army policy, students who miss 10 percent of class time had to be sent home.

"We had already lost some time due to the hurricane," said Sgt. 1st Class Wade Hutcheson, a Power Generation Repair Course instructor. "We wanted the students to graduate; it costs the Army a lot of money to have them come here."

Students in the Power Generation Repair course learn how to connect electricity to a building, so Hutcheson and Sgt. 1st Class Garrett Arasmith, a Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic Course instructor, discussed the idea of using the school's training generators to provide electricity.

"We had no idea when the power was coming back on, so if we didn't get power, the classes were pretty much over," Arasmith said. "We train to hook up to a building, now we had an actual use for this training."

The two instructors received authorization from their chain of command as well as the FIG Department of Public Works, and they implemented their plan for powering the building.

"We supervised the students doing some of the work, which was actually their class practical exercise, and we handled the stuff that was too hazardous for them," said Arasmith.

By the end of the day, most of the building had heat and electricity, and the instructors were able to teach for three days on the improvised backup system. On the fourth day, the local power company repaired the lines, and they restored power to the school.

RTS-M, FIG also offers wheeled vehicle recovery training, and a course that teaches mid level noncommissioned officers to be advanced leaders and supervisors. The curriculum also includes the Army Maintenance Management Computer System known Army wide as the Standard Army Maintenance System - Enhanced.

"Out of all the jobs I've had in the military this is the most gratifying," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Merritt, a Power Generation Repair course instructor. "They (the students) come to the school house not knowing anything and you teach, then you see that light come one; it's an awesome, awesome feeling."

Sgt. Maj. Kelvin Anders, the school's chief of operations, said there was a sense of accomplishment amongst the students who helped power up the building after the hurricane. Anders says he'd like to see more real-world training opportunities incorporated into the school curriculum.

Page last updated Mon January 14th, 2013 at 00:00