The 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley, Kansas, played host to an expansive floating bridge crossing at Milford Lake as part of training exercise Gauntlet June 18.
Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div., drove more than 40 armored vehicles, including Bradley Fighting Vehicles and M1A2 Abrams tanks, over the nearly 2,000-foot span as part of their training.
"It is pretty awesome," said Maj. James Wiltse, 1st Bn., 16th Inf. Regt., 1st ABCT, executive officer. "I didn't ever think I would have an opportunity to do this unless it was in real combat or during a deployment.
"We got to do it right here at our home station training area. It is pretty amazing for me, the Soldiers in the battalion and the brigade. This is something that we don't get to do very often, but you are seeing that it came together very well."
The bridge was assembled by Soldiers from several Total Army partner units, including the 5th Engineer Battalion and 50th Multi-Role Bridge Company, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; 502nd MRBC, Fort Knox, Kentucky; 74th MRBC, Fort Hood, Texas; and the 2225th MRBC of the Louisiana National Guard, two days prior to the "Iron Rangers" crossing. The entire process took 14 hours.
Wiltse recognized the training value of the sizable water crossing for his Soldiers and the Army as a whole.
"It is very important because it takes off that edge of when you get somewhere and you have to do this for the first time for real," Wiltse said. "We are going to do it here so we can work out the bugs and people are seeing it, exposed to it and they have the experience now so it isn't going to be a surprise when they have to do it for real."
The training was a confidence builder for the Iron Rangers and was valuable training for the MRBCs to construct a bridge in an unfamiliar environment.
"It was extremely important that we came out here and did this in the closest thing we can replicate to the National Training Center event for an MRBC," said Capt. Daniel Kitchell, 74th MRBC.
"We don't get a chance to go out to NTC, so this was a great experience to come out and place us in a tactical setting, and come out and build here. I don't think there are very many places CONUS (continental United States) that we can do this to this level and get the same training value out of it."
The size of the water crossing provided a rare opportunity to bring several MRBCs together as a team to work on project.
"Being able to do this 600-meter wet gap crossing is monumental for us," Kitchell said. "It is the first we have gotten three active duty MRBs together, and work together on the same raft and the same bridge to bridge this gap took a lot of team effort to get this thing in place."