CASCO, Maine - Soldiers assigned to the 136th Engineer Company (Vertical) Maine Army National Guard conducted their annual training at Camp Susan Curtis in Stoneham, Maine this June. They spent their time working on innovative readiness training projects by renovating the camps and improving the cabins. Their work included building a brand new cabin from the ground up battling the weather and insects the entire time.

"Our focus for this entire annual training exercise is to develop our broad engineering skills," said Capt. Morse Doane, the acting commander of the 136th. "For us, as a vertical engineering construction company, that is building stuff, carpentry, electrical, plumbing and concrete work."

Community needs such as infrastructure, health care, transportation, and cyber security align with military mission essential training requirements. IRT is a U.S. military and volunteer training opportunity that provides training and readiness for military personnel while addressing public and civil-society needs.

Through the two weeks they worked on building a new concession stand for the town of Casco. The first task the soldiers faced was re-roofing all of the cabins. The June weather made this more difficult than first expected due to the inherent dangers of working on slippery, wet roofs from small rain showers throughout the day.

"The rain has made the roofing difficult." said Spc. David McLaughlin, who is trained as an electrician, but also works full time as a plumber. As the project began he had the opportunity to learn more about roofing from his fellow soldiers who were more proficient in the task. There is a lot of cross training going on in between the different tradesmen of the unit on this project.

"A lot of the people who don't know about plumbing, like the electricians, are learning how to do plumbing stuff from the other guys." said McLaughlin.

The soldiers of the 136th are not only honing old skills but learning valuable new ones. "It's important we develop these skills now because when we deploy, typically we won't be looked at for our combat skills, we will be looked at first and foremost for our construction skills," said Doane.
"A lot of the floors in the cabins have rotted out", said McLaughlin. "We have had to replace them along with four water heaters, and pretty much every single toilet and shower".

The projects allow the squads and teams to help each other develop their necessary skills for the job at hand, and also helps them grow professionally and as leaders. While there is a lot of work to be done on the project, there is time built in for physical training and Army task specific training.

"I think this is a great opportunity for our lower enlisted to come out and work on hands on projects and gives them the opportunity to become leaders and practice their leadership skills on projects," said Sgt. Chad Cleaves, one of the project managers. With all of the other tasks at hand, free time was rare, but if they did find themselves with extra down time skilled individuals could teach classes such as chainsaw training or how to assemble and disassemble weapons in the afternoons.

"This is great training," said Doane. "We have to be prepared to exercise our Army warrior tasks and battle drills just like any other unit, and as engineers we could be asked to do anything but we need to be proficient in those things."

The 136th hoped to meet and improve upon their core skills during their two weeks of training, which included communication, building and leading. They did this by developing leaders at the team, squad, platoon and company levels as well as through their work, making positive and visible construction contributions to community organizations in southwestern Maine.