By Spc. Alexis Harrison, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsJuly 9, 2008
AUSTIN, Texas- In order to know what it takes to make a city of almost a million people function on a day-to-day basis, troops from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division spent the day in Austin, Texas for a block of specialized instruction from the people who do it every day.
Dozens of officers, from lieutenant all the way up the brigade's commander, Col. Ryan Gonsalves, sat in on a day-long symposium June 30 at the Palmer Events Center in the capital's downtown area to gain insight on issues like policing, solid waste collection and electrical power generation.
Instead of it being a simple lecture, where everyone sat while slides were shown and read by a presenter, the assistant city manager, Bert Lambreras, encouraged a free discussion as the presentations were made. He said this was to not only help the Soldiers get their questions answered, but it would help the city officials learn about challenges the troops face when in places like Iraq or Afghanistan.
"This was really just a way for us to show our commitment to the greater mission," he said. "With this training the military leaders can look at different programs they use and evaluative the effectiveness of the concepts applied. This is also a great way for us to exchange ideas. We don't just give information, but we also come away with some ideas on how we can do things."
Of the half dozen or so presentations given that day, the two that got the most attention were from the assistant chief of police and the tour of an Austin Energy electrical substation just across the way from the event center.
When either security or electricity was the topic, hands were raised and debates ensued. Mainly, how can you police a conflicted area with results' How can you deliver power to residents without destroying and/or rebuilding the entire city's outdated power grid'
The Austin Police Department's Chief of Staff, David Carter, gave a brief recap of America's policing history and then discussed topics like law and order, and building community trust.
"It took America several decades to get to where we are now; we can not expect Iraq to change overnight," he said.
After lunch and a few more lectures on wastewater management and solid waste management, the troops loaded up and took a few minutes to drive to the Austin Energy substation "Seaholm."
Here, Kevin Brown, the superintendent of systems operation; Beverly Carter, manager of the energy management system control; and Dan Smith, manager of the substation and relay engineering, gave the troops a tour of what it takes to supply millions of megawatts to thousands of people on a daily basis safely.
The 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion's executive officer, Maj. Tim Prater, said the day-long course was a good overview of city services. The Inverness, Miss., native added that courses like this could help show military leaders what "right" looks like.
"This course is going to help a lot of [Soldiers] identify problems and have the knowledge to know what to do when faced with these challenges," Prater said. "This definitely lends to the versatility of our mission and will help us coach, teach and mentor our counterparts in the future."