HYDE COUNTY, S.D. - Since its founding in 1636, the National Guard has responded when called upon by local communities to assist emergencies or to provide various and valuable services for the people.
Continuing that tradition, soldiers assigned to 228th Engineer Company, 103rd Engineer Battalion, 213th Regional Support Group, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, assisted the municipality of Hyde County, South Dakota, by removing a damaged bridge embankment, June 16, 2013.
"Hyde County in South Dakota had us come out here to blow up two bridge embankments that are a little bit dangerous to the county," said 1st Lt. James Goslin, combat engineer and 2nd Platoon Leader with 228th Engineer Company "Out here it's a civil duty we're doing."
The 228th Eng. Co. conducted the mission as part of Golden Coyote, an annual training exercise, combining U.S. service members and soldier from four foreign nations, as they train in tactical and logistical environments.
A flood destroyed the bridge, which spanned a small creek, leaving behind two concrete bulwarks, creating a hazard to unwary travelers.
The fields have a right-of-way, 66 feet off the fences that delineate the square mile plot of land," said Lt. Col. Christopher McDevit, commander of 103rd Eng. Bn. "The problem they have is they have a lot of out of state hunters that don't know where some of these hazards are. It was creating a great deal of difficulty for the community."
Combat Engineers demolished the earthworks in stages; first setting cratering charges to create holes to bury the main chargers in, allowing the Soldiers to maximize the explosive effect.
"After the charge is set, we bury it, tamp the dirt and then pour water on it, that way it fills in all the gaps that could be left behind," said Staff Sgt. Scott Carsia, combat engineer with 228th Eng, Co. "This way the force of the explosion will go out instead of up, and hopefully push the walls down."
The soldiers demolished the wall in less than two hours, accomplishing the mission of removing the embankments and clearing a path for clean up crews to access the site and remove debris.
"Some of their organic equipment and another Guard unit from South Dakota will come in now and reclaim the site," said McDevit, speaking about Hyde County municipality. "They couldn't do that with the bridge embankment in place."
The soldiers performed the mission at no cost to the county, or the land owner, who delayed removing the bridge due the large personal cost of the process.
"Everything we utilized was ammunition that was forecast for this training year. It was demolitions that's would have been expended in a range scenario either at Camp Guernsey, Wyoming during this [annual training] period or back at Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania," said McDevit.
In addition to civil duty, the mission also provided real world training for 228th soldiers.
"Primarily we do route clearance," said Goslin, speaking about the unit's mission when deployed. "So out here we're teaching everyone basic demolitions, blowing up bridges and stuff like that."
Instead of a range, where the soldiers only detonate their charges in the ground, this mission allowed the Soldiers to see the effects of their work.
"Part of training soldiers is showing the effects of what they've done. Just like we hold an after action review after every training exercise, there's no better after action review from a demolitions mission than the results it produces," said McDevit. "It helps educate our [noncommissioned officers] and our young officers on what a particular charge will do when given a particular type or fortification to deal with."
McDevit went on to say the National Guard stands apart from the other service components due to the unique role they play in local communities.
"The active component, the Army Reserves, Army National Guard; we all have the same equipment, receive the same training. The thing that sets us apart is the fact that we are the hometown guard. We're your neighbors. We're in the communities. When the need arises and the community requests, we respond," concluded McDevit.