FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. - Finding a place to park can be a headache, driving though a lot, eyes peeled, looking for that one empty spot.
The 417th Engineer Company (Horizontal) is helping to alleviate that issue for the law enforcement Humvees and the aircraft at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., by providing civic improvements during Castle Installation Related Construction Aug. 6 to 19.
The company, from Bullville, New York, is currently working on two projects preparing the ground so contractors will be able to pour concrete in the coming weeks for a hanger pad and a parking pad for Humvees.
One platoon is focusing on the preparing the ground at the hanger site.
"We're currently working on the earthwork for the Tusi Army airfield trying to get the subgrade compacted to where we can start building up our lifts of stone to start preparing for a pad for a hanger," said 1st Lt. Mark Oakley, 417th Engineer Company, airfield project officer-in-charge from New Windsor, New York.
The other platoon is also performing earthwork, but for different vehicle storage.
"We're building a parking lot for the law enforcement agency. They're looking for a place to park their Humvees," said 2nd Lt. Holly Fitzgerald, 417th Engineer Company, Humvee parking lot project officer-in-charge, from Middletown, New York. "They're currently on the unpaved lot so, we're prepping a lot to be paved for closer storage."
Oakley and Fitzgerald said the projects are going well, while there have been small challenges, the biggest issue is the soil.
"It's been a little tough. The soil is not good to work with but we're getting it done," said Oakley. "I'm adding a lot of aggregate to it and getting it taken care of so it will meet compaction standards and we can start building up on it safely."
While the soil may not be ideal, Oakley says learning with different soil types trains the Soldiers for a variety of locations.
"They're getting to see how different soil types can effect the construction site and what lengths we have to go to," sad Oakley. "These are techniques we don't get to do in New York because the soil is a lot different. We can compact it easier so now they're learning how to blend in the aggregate and the binding material to where we can get our compaction."
Oakley said he wanted the difficulty the airfield project provided.
"I knew what the project was, I've been to all the planning conferences. I got to pick my project even. I took this one because I knew it would be the challenge," said Oakley. "I like challenges and my team likes challenges. I know what to expect from my guys. I knew if I gave them something hard they'd relish in it."
Due to the scope of the project, the airfield pad was not on schedule. To make up for this the platoon worked two shifts, starting early in the morning and ending late into the night.
"Everybody is highly motivated," said Oakley. "Even when we said we'd have to work until 11 p.m. and had to split our shift up everybody was like, 'let's do it,' and just tackling the mission."
While the Soldiers have long days, the equipment training is invaluable due to weather considerations at the company's home station, according to Fitzgerald.
"The crew is highly motived, excited to get on the machines and get that time in," said Fitzgerald. "Being from New York, half the months are wintertime and they don't get to do a lot of actual construction. So, this is a good opportunity for them and we have a wide variety of machines for them to use. They're excited, gung-ho and working hard."
This training is not only good for the training value, but because the unit may have these types of projects when they return home.
"It's beneficial because we have a lot of drivers training going on, so they get to use a wide variety of vehicles, then this will help back home," said Fitzgerald. "We possibly have some similar construction operations at our own home site of clearing roads and areas."
The unit is currently in their train ready one year in the Army Force Generation Cycle. This is their first training year in the five-year cycle. In four years the unit will be available for deployment.
Since this is their first training year, Fitzgerald sees this exercise as a baseline to build on in future exercises.
"It's the basics, we can focus just on our unit's tasks," said Fitzgerald. "So, we have this foundation going, now we can add in the outside factors, adding security and more difficult operations like night operations and having enemy presence. So, it's a good foundation that we can just focus on construction without any outside factors, then build up on them."
While Fitzgerald is looking at future training, she is also watching her Soldiers working on the pad and is pleased with the work her team is accomplishing.
"I'm really impressed with the motivation and the hard work they're putting in," she said.. "We've been receiving good feedback and I have to attribute it all to the platoon. It's been fun so far and I'm looking forward to the end result."