By Mr. Justin Matthew Ward (USACE)July 22, 2008
Being always prepared is not only applicable to the Boy Scouts. It's also applicable to the Corps' Europe District, which continually sends volunteers to train on FEST-A (Forward Engineer Support Team - Advanced) teams, which must be continuously prepared to deploy to support engineer planning and mission execution whenever, wherever called upon.
"Our chief obstacle in Europe is the five-year rule," said Ray Langdale, District operations officer. "And one thing we have to do is to continually build a bench of people."
The most recent selectees for the team - Maj. Landon Raby, Keith Cromartie, Martin Mann, Vanessa Bauders, Lawrence Ryan, Roger Smith, Francisco Torres, Louie Brackett, and Army Reservist Sgt. 1st Class James Mink - are seasoned professionals who must be capable of operating in dynamic and oftentimes harsh environments. They also represent a variety of District offices. Langdale said that's intentional.
"We always try to get a variety of skill sets on the team," said Langdale. "This makes us better equipped for anything that might come our way."
The team, which will train in Mobile, Ala., in late July, is the latest in a long line of teams. In August 2007, the District deployed its then-FEST-A team to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., to assist a Brigade Combat Team ramping up for their upcoming deployment.
In the simulation, the team became the engineer cell of an embedded provincial reconstruction team by replicating a regional office by reviewing contracts, conducting infrastructure assessments, attending committee meetings, and providing technical expertise.
According to Maj. Sebastian Pastor, military lead and environmental engineer for the team, the BCT was impressed by the professionalism of the team - and he foresees this current team of being able to provide the same professional and committed support. And to be "Always prepared."