By Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Wood, 412th Theater Engineer CommandMarch 16, 2018
Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve's 478th Engineer Battalion, 412th Theater Engineer Command, based in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, made history at Fort Knox Feb. 4-23.
The battalion's four mobility augmentation companies earned T2 Training certification after being certified in GATE III -- a section-level gunnery and Engineer Qualification Tables X through X11, which includes the firing of inert mine clearing line charges, or MCLCs.
Unit officials said this is the first time a 412th battalion has accomplished such a feat.
Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Andrew Morris praised the support efforts of battalions within 926th Engineer Brigade and the command as well as the training coordination of Fort Knox's 1st Squadron, 409th Regiment, 4th Cavalry Brigade.
"We could have not obtained this without the Soldiers, our partners in arms, the higher headquarters, and the support personnel on Knox," said Morris.
Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Trammell, battalion master gunner, received the warning order to "deploy" in January and certified the Soldiers in their gunnery tasks, starting with building the scenarios two weeks later.
The battalion started training Oct. 20, 2017. The first step in the certification process was getting Soldiers qualified in GATE IV, or gunnery skills testing up to crew level.
To accomplish this, Fort Knox's St. Vith Range became a "combat environment."
Platoons in M113 armored personnel carriers tested on several mission essential tasks, including reacting to indirect fire, engaging targets several hundred meters away with mounted .50 caliber machine guns and assigned individual weapons, including the Squad Automatic Weapon and either firing an inert MICLC or an M-136 Volcano weapons system mounted on an M977 heavy expanded mobility tactical truck. Armored Vehicle Launch Bridges also were deployed.
Specialist Andrew Brewer, in 450th Mobile Augmentation Company, based in Fort Thomas, noted the training was held in freezing temperatures, snow and rain showers throughout the winter.
"Now that it's all done and knowing that we are one of the first to accomplish this level of training, it's a great sense of accomplishment," said Brewer.
Morris said the experience has been "pretty enlightening."
"The biggest thing I gathered from that is the commitment and dedication of the Soldiers under my command," said Morris. "They went through some very difficult times, being very cold, very wet and withstanding rough conditions, but they stuck to it and they achieved all their aim points. They had goals and they obtained them, so I am very proud of them."
Staff Sgt. Joseph Wetzel, a 450th platoon sergeant, said he encouraged his Soldiers to excel in the training.
"I made it clear to them to make the most of it and take everything from it they could because who knows when they will be able to do something like this at this level again," said Wetzel.
The Soldiers of 449th MAC, also based in Fort Thomas, were the first to achieve the T2 status, on Feb. 13. With three line platoons, a headquarters platoon and a maintenance platoon, Company Commander Capt. Nelson Page said he is not surprised by their accomplishment.
"We are a very strong team, we know each other very well, and we all work together very well," said Page. "With all the training that we have done, with the amount of trigger time that we have had, there is no doubt that my Soldiers will excel in a combat environment with not only maneuvering efficiently, but we will hit targets. We're ready for whatever the Army gives us next."
All the platoons in 396th, based in Ashland, and two of the three platoons of 979th, based in Lexington, successfully completed night operations training. The training entailed crossing a gap with an armored vehicle-launched bridge, breaching and clearing a lane through an obstacle, and deploying a Volcano minefield.
The 396th commander, Capt. Kenneth Klinner, said when he and 979th Commander Capt. Andrew Feitel learned their platoons could be certified as T1, they approached representatives of 1-409 to determine what tasks their Soldiers needed to accomplish to achieve the certification.
"We wanted to push our guys a little bit harder, so we essentially ran 24-hours [operations] for five days," said Klinner. "Now we are trained up and ready to help support the nation in any way that they need us to."