By Staff Sgt. David OversonMarch 28, 2018
HOHENFELS, Germany (March 28, 2018) -- Eight U.S. Army Reserve engineer Soldiers from the Army Reserve's 377th Forward Engineer Support Team -- Advanced (FEST-A), provided oversight of multiple engineering projects at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center's annual Troop Construction 2018 work project, March 11 -- 31.
The FEST-A eight-man team is comprised of professional engineers, and draws upon their civilian capabilities and skillsets to coordinate and supervise other engineer companies to ensure the construction objectives are met and they meet all Army standards.
In the Hohenfels Training Area, those engineer companies are the 922nd Engineer Company (Horizontal), Louisiana Army National Guard, and the 859th Engineer Company (Vertical), Mississippi Army National Guard, as they conduct their required annual training.
In addition to supervising local construction projects, a FEST-A team may also be tasked with providing technical engineering support in a deployed environment.
"Here at JMRC we are given the opportunity that sometimes we don't get at home," said Maj. Tony M. Thompson, 377th FEST-A Commanding Officer. "This brings us closer to a real deployment scenario. It's very beneficial."
In addition to supervising construction projects in the Hohenfels Training Area, the 377th received additional engineer training from the active duty component of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Knauff with the 542nd FEST-A instructed the team on five specific tasks: perform an engineer reconnaissance, perform an initial infrastructure assessment, prepare a preliminary base camp plan, provide antiterrorism and force protective engineering input to the planning process, and perform a bridge assessment reconnaissance.
"The team performed great," said Knauff. "Though they are not preparing to deploy at this time, this is the same training they'd receive and are now certified as if they were going to deploy."
In addition to their own training, the 377th had their hands full providing quality control for several large-scale horizontal projects in the training area, commonly referred to as the "Box." Repairs were made where tanks from previous exercises took their toll on the terrain. Also there were several vertical construction projects ranging from new roofs on several buildings to an obstacle course.
The 377th's senior enlisted adviser, Sgt. 1st Class Mark Eschen, a telecommunication infrastructure engineer in his civilian role, also recognized the invaluable training opportunity.
"This training allows us to mesh with other units we've never worked with before," said Eschen. "It also allows us to connect with our upper and lower echelon units."
Maj. Hector Mojica, chief of troop construction for JMRC's Army Reserve Engagement Cell, weighed in on how successful this reserve component construction is.
"The JMRC Troop Construction Program provides a unique readiness enhancing opportunity for reserve component units deploying to JMRC," said Mojica. "We provide a training platform and the tools and equipment necessary for engineer construction units to train on their mission essential task list (METL) and on real-world construction missions.
"At the same time, the engineer projects enhance JMRC's training capabilities through infrastructure development in a cost-efficient manner. It really is a win-win situation."
The hands-on training provided by the active component also included special equipment used by FEST-A teams and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: an Automated Route Reconnaissance Kit (ARRK), the Infrastructure Recon Information System (IRIS) and the Tele-Engineering Communications Equipment - Deployable (TCE-D).
"This training allows us to assess our strengths and weaknesses," added Thompson. "It also lets us know if we are not able to fulfill a particular task. And if not, if and when we deploy, we'll know to request that asset.
"Prior to this exercise, our group only met once, so this gives us an opportunity to work with one another and come together as a unit."