FORT CHAFFEE, Ark. - When hearing about an Army exercise called Operation River Assault, most people would think of boats and bridges, but it takes far more to ensure this exercise is successful than just amphibious equipment.The 381st Engineer Company, out of Tifton, Georgia, provides one of the pieces to make this operation run smoothly."Our job for this exercise, specifically we re-grade the roads so they can get the bridge down to the launch site safely and be able to have an area to stage their vehicles," said Sgt. Kirk Jackson, 381st job site supervisor from Valdosta, Georgia.
"Some of them are in pretty bad condition because of the rain; they're washed out. A lot of them are really dusty. That's another one of our missions out here is to provide support with our water distributor to lay water on the road and keep the dust down when convoys are coming in and out."To complete their mission, the 381st uses a variety of heavy equipment. It is vital for the Soldiers to be able to operate the heavy vehicles so the first training the unit conducted when they arrived at Fort Chaffee, was equipment training and re-familiarization. The vehicles they trained on included a roller, wheeled loader, deployable universal combat earthmover, motorized road grader and the D6K dozer."Today we're doing equipment training; just getting re-familiarized with the equipment and getting some of the new Soldiers who haven't been on this equipment before, getting them trained up so when they go out to the job sites they'll be good to go," said Jackson.The grader is a newer model, which replaced the seven levers and steering wheel to operate the vehicle with two joysticks. Most of the Soldiers said they were unfamiliar with the new design and were excited to learn how to operate the vehicle."It's got two joysticks, but there is just so much you can do with those joysticks," said Mary Daniels, 381st heavy equipment operator, also from Valdosta, after operating the grader. "I prefer the new one. I just need a little more operators training to get a better understanding. This is my first time on the new one. If I have more time, I think I can get it. I can get it down pat, I'm sure."The Soldiers are not only excited about training on the new vehicles, but also because the opportunities have been rare at home."It's been a long time since we've been on our equipment because it's been raining back home so we really can't do a lot of stick time," said Daniels. "Being out here it's really nice great weather. "Not only is the weather a blessing, but the Soldiers also said getting this training is important for their mission."It helps us get ready and makes us feel more confident in our jobs so when we do deploy we won't be lost," said Daniels. "We'll know what we have to do with all our equipment."