VICENZA, Italy -- The 273rd Engineer Detachment, Forward Engineer Support Team -- Advanced (FEST-A) long-time existence has played a key role in various missions. Their contributions date all the way back to the World War II era, where they provided engineer support to the Philippines and again through the Vietnam War. Overall, their efforts were viewed as a major success, so much in fact that in 2003 the Army recognized a need for technical engineering support in a deployed environment.
To provide that support, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) developed the Field Force Engineering program. Part of that program was the forward engineer support teams. These teams recruited engineers with technical skills in geospatial science and civil, environmental, electrical, mechanical and structural engineering to deploy and support forward Army units focused on Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 273rd FEST-A provides USACE with a sustainable team that is highly trained and available to respond to a contingency support request anywhere in the world. Those capabilities include automated route reconnaissance, base camp planning, site development planning, life health safety assessments, code compliance assessments, infrastructure assessments, and engineering reach back support.
Most recently, the FEST-A put their capabilities and skillsets on full display by providing support to U.S. Africa Command and U.S Army Africa during two utilization periods. These periods are month-long blocks of time where they provide direct support to one of the geographic component commands. AFRICOM received support for two of those periods thus far.
"The 273rd FEST assisted USARAF staff in refining courses of action to better support setting the theater," said Brig. Gen. Eugene LeBoeuf, the USARAF acting commanding general. "Their analysis improved the understanding of infrastructure limitations in Africa and laid the foundation for the development of options USARAF can provide to the USAFRICOM commander that better support operational requirements," he said.
The current team of volunteers formed in November 2016 and trained to provide expeditionary support to the Army component commands. The majority of the team members are from Fort Worth with others working from Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Bliss, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; Mobile, Alabama; Rapid City, South Dakota; Los Angeles and Dallas.
The team provided engineering assessments and design to support units in Korea, Puerto Rico, Jordan and Uganda. Because of their capabilities and skillsets, USARAF is looking forward to working with the FEST-A team in the future.
"Their work will enable our staff to develop alternatives that better meet mission requirements and support the combatant commander," LeBoeuf said. "Further, this analysis will enable us to articulate the necessary engineering (infrastructure and real-estate) requirements to achieve full operational capability. This model work will be used in the assessment of the alternate sites and shared with the AFRICOM posture team."