By Sgt. Bethany L. HuffJuly 31, 2018
CONNEAUT LAKE, Pa. -- Along a dirt road -- foreboding, almost -- a semi-forgotten time capsule has been cracked wide open.
The green tents stand erect in the early morning light, showing signs of productivity; behind them, hard structures go up nail by nail, bolt by bolt. The clanking of steel echoes in the distance; a clamor of directions shouted out from various directions represent the sounds of progress as Soldiers work in the summer heat.
The beautification of the Keystone Local Training Area is due to a group of 41Soldiers from the 377th Engineer Company who are refurbishing an old firing range and enhancing the area with an indoor classroom.
"I'd say this site is about fifty years old," said Sgt. Kyle Gibson, a construction engineer with the 377th Engineer Company, as he supervised his team of engineers. "This site is supposed to be used by the Army Reserve, the National Guard, and I think the police come out here to use it as well."
While the area seemingly looks forlorn and desolate, engineers from the Army Reserve have rotated out to the area to enhance this once bustling training site.
"This is starting to sound like an acceptance speech on an awards show," laughed Chief Warrant Officer 1 Shawn Knauff, the on-site officer in charge, also with the 377th Engineer Company. "But the employees of ECS/ AMSA 103 helped with operators when all the materials were being delivered for this project and some site prep prior to the Soldiers arriving."
The Mercer, Pennsylvania native describes how various engineer units have rotated to the training grounds in order to make the area functional again within the next year.
"The first rotation was the 340th Engineer Company (horizontal) from New Kensington, Pennsylvania with 25 Soldiers. Then the second rotation was the 377th Engineer Company (vertical), and the 315th Engineer Detachment (concrete), the 665th Utilities Detachment (rear detachment), which totaled 43 Soldiers aiding in this project," said Knauff. "The final rotation, which is the group we have out here now, is the 377th Engineer Company (vertical), with 41 Soldiers aiding in the project."
Due to the progress made thus far with the training area, local units will be able to seize training opportunities closer to home.
"In the past, we've had to pay the National Guard to use their training facilities down at Camp Dawson," said Gibson. "With this [training facility functioning] we can train closer to home, and receive quality training at the same time."
While these are some of the immediate benefits of this site being refurbished, there are some valuable training gains as the engineers work tirelessly to get the area up and running at full capacity. Through the rotations, the engineers have poured concrete, established a t-wall barrier, built an indoor classroom and re-enforced the 25-meter rifle range. �
"Working out here has given my team different experiences within their own engineer skills," said Gibson, a Meadville, Pennsylvania native. "They are getting the opportunities to work with things they haven't before."
Other areas within the 600-acre area of Keystone Local Training Area that are being looked at to refurbish include the gas chamber, various tent pads, and potentially better bathrooms, according to Gibson.
"The project is important because the local training area will provide a functional area for Soldiers to exercise their basic Soldier skills," said Knauff. "They will be able to do so much, because it is all right here."