FORT CHAFFEE, Ark.-The 412th and 416th Theater Engineer Commands alongside aviation and army diving assets combined forces to meet the challenges of crossing the Arkansas River at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, July 23.
Operation River Assault is an exercise executed with coordination, communication and precision. The building of an improved ribbon bridge is similar to a composer assembling conductors and musicians with instruments to create a masterpiece.
"This exercise is the primary engineer exercise of the Reserve component where we actually give our units an opportunity to practice building an improved ribbon bridge over a river which will enable the movement of Army assets across it," said Col. Kirk Claunch, 420th Engineer Brigade commander, and a Fort Worth, Texas, resident. "Detailed coordination of this River Assault is actually done by the crossing force commander who ensures the bridge companies and aviation assets coordinate in ways necessary to get the number of bays and boats into the water at the right time."
In the early morning hours, Soldiers staged their equipment and stood ready to engage in the task like musicians of a symphony who anxiously wait for the signal from the conductor to start playing so their music can be heard. At the break of dawn, the crossing force commander gave the order to the commanders to begin building the improved ribbon bridge.
"There is a huge component of leadership and I can't directly conduct a bridge boat or a bridge bay to go in a certain location at a certain time but I can lead leaders or company commanders," said Lt. Col. David R. Skavnak, 397th Eng. Battalion commander and the crossing force commander of Operation River Assault. "Most of the orchestration is between the companies and company commanders."
After receiving the order from the crossing commander to build the improved ribbon bridge, the company commanders lead their units, moving equipment with precision. Bridge erection boats dropped into the water from the shore followed by bridge bays from land and air with no breaks between the insertions of the equipment.
The motivation of the engineer units was much like the emotion and passion of musicians in a symphony giving the audience a performance. The engineers exceed the standards of the river crossing increasing their esprit de corp with a memorable performance.
"Our unit erected 11 bays in 22 minutes and 39 seconds; exceeding the Army standards of six bays in 20 minutes," said Staff Sgt. Charles Elliott, a multi-role bridge engineer with 401st Engineer Company, out of Mustang, Oklahoma. "The more we train, the better we get."
The 412th and the 416th Theater Engineer Command's engineer Soldiers assembled the bridge to cross the Arkansas River in a little more than three hours.