By G. Anthonie Riis | Fort Knox NewsApril 26, 2019
When Fort Knox Directorate of Public Works can partner with the 19th Engineer Battalion for projects on Fort Knox, it's considered a win-win situation for everyone.
Take, for instance, preparing for the new Army Combat Fitness Test.
"[The 19th Engineers] will construct the new pullup bars for the Army's new Army Combat Fitness Test. This is in the wheelhouse of the many things they are able to do," said Christopher Karlsen Jr.,
deputy director of Public Works. "We're not able to use them for every instance, but this worked out perfect for them to do."
The chinup bars come in a "kit of standard design," according to Karlsen, who explained they will be constructed at various sites across Fort Knox.
"The ACFT requires the new pullup bars, and those require a specific configuration and design," said Capt. John Walleser, commander of 15th Engineer Construction Company, 19th Engineer Bn. "[Engineers] are building four sets of pullup bars at each of five [physical training] sites for units on the installation."
Walleser said such projects are just what's needed for junior engineers to cut their teeth.
"We actually need projects to train in construction. This type of project helps us to train our junior Soldiers in project management and constructing wooden structures," said Walleser. We give them an opportunity to lead project management on some of these types of projects."
Karlsen said the partnership and future projects are mutually beneficial to both organizations, but he added they are a boon to the public, as well.
"This is a training opportunity for the engineers, and we get to save a ton of money -- more than $15,000 on this project alone," Karlsen said. "Who benefits the most? It provides training for them, we get a quality product; but it is really the taxpayer who benefits the most."
The engineers aren't always the first choice due to required contracting, Karlsen said, but they become a viable alternative when budgets tighten.
"We still have to contract out [for other projects], but every year we scrub our annual work plan for projects that we can use the engineers for," Karlsen said. "It's not uncommon to leverage engineer capabilities and troop labor, especially in a fiscally austere environment."
The engineers also have factors they must consider before taking on a project.
"The process starts with a customer and a need. DPW determines whether there is funding available to contract the work, if not, they'll put it out to the engineers," Walleser said. "We need to see if it meets our training requirements and if we have the window of time for the construction. Most importantly, we have to prioritize which projects most meet our training requirements."
According to Karlsen, the engineers' real asset to Fort Knox at this time is not their ability to build, but their ability to demolish.
"We have a lot of excess facilities here that could not be used for any other mission and were deemed demo-worthy, and the engineers have been able to take care of most of those buildings," Karlsen said. "A lot of the work they do is demolition and ground preparation. If we were to contract that work out through normal process, it would cost nearly a million dollars in manpower and earthworks," Karlsen said. "But using our engineer asset, we've got that down to $279 thousand.
"That's saves us tremendously --about $600,000."