By Bob McElroySeptember 18, 2013
FORT A.P. HILL, Va. -- When a bridge erection boat from the 310th Engineer Battalion slid into the water at Whites Lake on a quiet morning in September it was the culmination of more than a year's hard work, ingenuity and inter-service cooperation.
It was also a testament to the efforts and cooperation of a team of Soldiers, Sailors and Civilians who were focused on one goal--to build a safe, sturdy tactical boat launch.
A year ago launching boats at Whites Lake was risky given the crumbling ramp but with money tight, funds to repair or replace the boat ramp were not available, according to garrison commander Lt. Col. Peter E. Dargle.
The solution, he said, was to use training units to fix the ramp. The units could train on their combat tasks while also providing no or low-cost repairs to the boat ramp.
Lance Didlake, A.P. Hill Range Operations, said the initial work was performed by the 189th Engineer Company, Virginia Army National Guard. The Soldiers identified shortcomings and safety concerns during river crossing training with the 1st Battalion 110th Infantry (Stryker) in July 2012.
Later, on Oct 14 and 15, a survey team from the 72nd Survey and Design Detachment, Fort Knox, Ky. visited the site to assess it. Detachment Operations Sergeant Staff Sgt. Sarah Gerke and a team of six Soldiers surveyed the launch site to determine what needed to be done to bring it up to standard.
Before new construction could begin, the existing pier had to be removed. U.S. Navy divers led by Chief Engineering Aide Christopher Munch and Chief Equipment Operator Jarrel Patton from Underwater Construction Team One, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va. demolished the existing pier and removed debris at the site on Oct. 17-18.
Next came the design phase from October 2012 to February 2013. Chief Warrant Officer 2
Enrique Rios, a Construction Technician with 19th Engineer Battalion, Fort Knox, Ky.
prepared the engineer drawings and designs.
In May 2103 Chief Warrant Officer 3 William Wessel, 244th Engineer Company, Maryland Army National Guard, loaded and transported cable concrete material for launch ramp to Whites Lake.
Finally, from Aug. 11-21, 2nd Lt. Efrain Garcia-Martinez, a platoon leader with the 502nd Multi-Role Bridge Company, 19th Engineer Battalion, Fort Knox, Ky., and his platoon built the new Whites Lake Tactical Boat Launch.
On Sept. 13, after the Engineers recovered their boat, 2nd Lt. Edward Chalkley, the 310th Engineer Battalion Headquarters Platoon Leader said the new tactical boat launch was a great thing for his unit.
"It's great because at the old ramp it was impossible to get boats into the water," Chalkley said. "This makes a huge difference, now we can deploy boats and equipment and train safely.
Garrison commander Dargle offered a final word.
"The improved launch facility will create significant training opportunities for units desiring to conduct waterborne live fire operations along the Whites Lake and Infantry Platoon Battle Course range complex," Dargle said.