DARIEN, Ill. - Approximately a dozen U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers who specialize in survey and design assisted the Department of Public Works (DPW) with multiple projects at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, during a training exercise from July 19 to Aug. 7.

These multi-million dollar infrastructure projects will serve to improve the standard of living and modernize training areas for thousands of Soldiers who train there year round.

"The real benefit for us is the expediency of having somebody on site collecting the information, validating the information with us, and not having to contract it out," said Greg Vallery, director of Fort Hunter Liggett DPW.

He said that incorporating Army Reserve Soldiers for such projects saved the Federal government in excess of $100,000 to contract civilians to perform the same work.

The Army Reserve Soldiers were from the 650th Engineer Detachment (Survey & Design) of Oklahoma City, plus augmentees from the 489th Engineer Battalion, Little Rock, Ark., 420th Engineer Brigade, Bryan, Texas; and 416th Theater Engineer Command, from Darien, Illinois.

They provided critical topographic information for five projects: the expansion of Schoonover Airfield, a 1.2-mile-long dirt landing strip on 160 acres of land; a roadway redevelopment; an emergency services facility for the post first responders; a shower and latrine facility; waste water treatment facilities; and certification of a dirt physical training track.

"It's impacted the unit a lot because a lot of the guys haven't worked together. We have a lot of new Soldiers, some coming just out of training, a lot of different styles, and this has been an excellent morale boost," said Staff Sgt. Covey Barlow of McAlester, Okla., detachment commander for the 650th En. Det.

The Soldiers focused exclusively on land surveying and drafting during this annual training exercise, an opportunity they wouldn't have had otherwise. They applied their trademark engineering skills to real-world missions, while working with civilian experts. They also trained how to interface new military engineering software with civilian ones.

Many of the team's junior Soldiers, were placed in leadership positions from the start. They developed problem-solving skills and got first-hand experience in Troop Leading Procedures and project management.
All of this served to greatly boost the unit's morale as they prepare to deploy to Kuwait in 2016.

Spc. Cory Jay Simons, survey design specialist for the 650th En. Det., shared the take-away from his training experience, "Learning more about the survey and design part, and working with the team to [complete] five projects in the time we had was a good experience. Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses. This training has brought out both what I'm strong in and what I'm weak in. Now I can focus on those accordingly and try to build myself as a better Soldier and better team mate."

Fort Hunter Liggett's training mission focus attracts approximately 43,000 military service members per year. Their lives and training are made a little better thanks to the concerted efforts of the DPW office on post. For these survey and design Reserve Soldiers, knowing they were a direct part of that process was it's own reward.