By Sgt. Karen SampsonApril 13, 2017
HOHENFELS, Germany -- Approximately 175 U.S. Army National Guard engineer Soldiers from four states arrived in Hohenfels, Germany to participate in the Joint Multinational Readiness Center's annual Troop Construction 2017 work project, March 30 -- April 22.
In the first of seven upcoming rotations for Troop Construction 2017, Soldiers from Texas, Colorado, Utah and Connecticut are fulfilling their required annual training by deploying to Hohenfles and constructing several complex structures necessary to enrich tactical capabilities of the U.S. Army Europe's premier training site.
The U.S. Army National Guard and Army Reserve's expertise and contributions to the training area are a crucial asset to JMRC. The mission is also vital in increasing an engineer unit's cohesion, capacity and fostering an engineer Soldier's individual readiness.
This mission allows the Soldiers to refine their craft with immersion in their specialized engineer qualification, perform on-site, on-the-job exposure to diverse skill sets and experience collaboration with military units from NATO allies and partner nations.
Texas National Guard Soldiers from the 236th Engineer Company are a vertical engineer unit currently, and are integrated with members of the Czech Republic Army, 151st Engineer Battalion. The unit is erecting a Parachute, Landing, Fall (PLF) complex that will provide an area for airborne units to practice pre-jump procedures and other safety training.
"Participating in JMRC's Troop Construction 2017 benefits our junior enlisted Soldiers in grasping their engineer specialty and develops our senior NCOs with site observation duties and instruction training," said Staff Sgt. William T. Fowler, Construction Supervisor and Safety Noncommissioned Officer in Charge.
Fowler is a Texas State Trooper. For the Army, he's an electrician.
He's mastered several skill sets integral to the project at hand. He is a testimony to the success of the unit's emphasis on engaging Soldiers in cross-level training all engineer skill sets.
"I could build my own house with that knowledge," said Fowler.
Having Soldiers confident in their skills also benefits their sense of accomplishment and the success of the mission.
"We take extreme care in promoting the success of our Soldiers," said Fowler. "We structure our mission plans around our Soldiers' experiences and gainful training opportunities."
In the JMRC Troop Construction Yard, flanking the training area, engineer Soldiers from the 236th En. Co. collaborate with Czech Republic Soldiers to perform all the preparatory carpentry for the PLF structure.
Our unit traditionally trains with the Czech Republic Army Soldiers at Hohenfels," said Staff Sgt. Thomas McCowan, 236th En. Co. Platoon Sergeant and carpentry subject matter expert for the group at the Troop Construction Yard. "We've built rapport on missions with the Czech Soldiers for the last ten years."
The 236th En. Co. are also constructing security gates to a pre-existing structure at the training area's largest replicated town-sets. This training element will train Soldiers security measures of entry and egress when working with personnel connected to the Department of State.
236th En. Co. will complete both structures by the end of their 21-day mission.
A few kilometers west, Soldiers from Colorado National Guard 947th Engineer Company are moving mountains, literally.
"Our heavy-equipment operators are moving earth in the training area to develop a short takeoff, landing strip (STOL) for unmanned aircraft (UAS) flight training," said Colorado National Guard Staff Sgt. Clifford Fraipont, 947th Engineer Company Squad Leader and Heavy Equipment Supervisor.
Four 20-ton dump trucks work in tandem teams redistributing mounds of earth to even out the landscape for the landing strip.
A team of two Soldiers operating motor graters slowly pass over the piles, one following the other, spreading out the dense clumps of earthen clay. Interrupting that waltz-like rhythm -- a Sheep's Foot Roller crosses the paths to aerate and compress the clay.
"We like working with the older style heavy equipment here," said Fraipont. "It's different from the newer equipment at home and broadens our range."
A team of ten Utah National Guard Soldiers from the 115th Engineering Facilities Detachment, 204th Maintenance Engineer Headquarters and Headquarters Command act as the overall survey and design team for Troop Construction 2017.
"We are reevaluating and updating designs for future construction projects and we are the survey team for development of the STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing strip)," said Capt. John Fraidenburg, Commander of the Utah National Guard 115th Engineering Facilities Detachment.
A construction management team from Connecticut National Guard 242nd Engineer Company acts as a logistics support and equipment management team for all ongoing projects.
All this new construction will improve the operational environment and provide advanced tactical training aids to prepare U.S. and allied forces for combat.
The JMRC Troop Construction 2017 effort identifies and resources projects for military engineer construction units. The annual project's intent is to provide units Mission Essential Task List (METL) training opportunities while simultaneously enhancing the JMRC training capabilities.