First Platoon of the 50th Multi-Role Bridge Company conducted boat school on Penn's Pond Aug. 21-22.

Boat School is aimed at training new Soldiers in the art of maneuvering the MK II Bridge Erection Boat, along with preparing and launching the components of the intermediate ribbon bridge.

Soldiers of the 50th MRBC began their training with a block of instruction on how to properly perform preventative maintenance checks and services on the MK II BEB. The training was led by Sgt. Martin Espinosa and Sgt. Ryan White.

"This is essential in order to ensure that our equipment is mission ready," said 2nd Lt. James Vidal, 50th MRBC platoon leader.

Following the Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services portion of the training, Sgt. Jason Clark instructed the Soldiers on how to launch the MK II BEB off the back of a Common Boat Transport truck into the water and also how to recover the MK II BEB from the water.

The Soldiers launched all three MK II BEB's into the water to begin learning how to operate and maneuver the equipment.

After launching the boats, the Soldiers learned the Laws of the Water Ways, which consists of knowing right of way between watercraft, signaling between each boat, and working in the presence of civilian watercraft.

Soldiers were instructed on how to perform critical maneuvers that allow the ability to push components of the IRB. Besides common maneuvering such as forward, backward, left, and right, Soldiers also learned how to perform what is called a "side slip." The side slip is when a Soldier maneuvers the MK II BEB left or right while keeping the bow of the BEB facing in a single direction.

Once the Soldiers demonstrate their ability to perform each maneuver, leaders moved into training on how to launch the components of the IRB off of the CBT.

During the second day of training, the Soldiers put all of their training into practice and added in the challenge of properly using the MK II BEB to maneuver the components of the IRB.

"This type of training is important because in real world scenarios soldiers of the 50th MRBC would be dealing with the current of a river rather than a pond," Vidal said.

Training concluded with equipment recovery from the water and a convoy back to the motor pool.

Vidal said that although it may not be common for people to associate the Army with water operations, it is important to understand that water can be a formidable obstacle for ground forces.

"This is where the Engineer Regiment is called upon for its expertise and the hard and technical training that our Soldiers continue to do make it possible to cross any type of gap," Vidal said.

While the training was beneficial for the proficiency of the unit, it also provided new Soldiers an opportunity for hands-on experience in bridging operations.

"In (Advanced Individual Training) we learned how to operate the boats, but we weren't given any stick time," said Pvt. Jamie Lemon, a bridge crewmember assigned to 50th MRBC. "The boat school is really the first opportunity we have to put our skills to the test."

"There's nothing better than being out on the water and building bridges," Lemon said.

The 50th MRBC plans to conduct a company field training exercise in November incorporating dry bridging operations.

(Editor's note: Vaders is assigned as the 5th Engr. Bn. Public Affairs Officer. Second Lt James Vidal contributed to this article.)