FORT KNOX, Ky. — Undaunted by weather and COVID-19 restrictions, engineers from 19th Engineer Battalion are nearing the end of their third phase on constructing a steel cutting bunker at Fort Knox.When completed sometime in mid-2021, the bunker will provide only the second such capability in the entire Army, the first being at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. The project, which began in 2019, is about 63% complete to date.“Rain has been the biggest issue, and COVID kicked us out for a little bit,” said 2nd Lt. John Herrmann, 3rd Platoon leader, 15th Engineer Construction Company, 19th Engineer Battalion.Herrmann said his crew has lined the bunker with enough rebar that if they were to stretch it end-to-end, it would span about 62 miles. Weighing a couple of hundred thousand pounds, the rebar lines the flooring, walls and, when completed, the roof.The facility’s 440 yards of concrete floor, walls and roof are 37-40” thick — strong enough to withstand repeated explosive blasts for years to come.The end of the third phase will be marked by the pouring of the roof, expected to begin in February 2021. The next month will a pause as the concrete cures. The fourth and final phase will begin when the engineers line the floor, walls and ceiling with timber, and cover the floor with sand, to protect the structure from explosives.A year ago, Rodney Manson, Fort Knox Range Management officer, said the original idea for a steel cutting bunker came from 19th Engineer Bn."We put together some justifications, and we submitted it in what's called the Senior Commander's Installation Needs and Issues, so basically it's validated at the installation level, and then we sent it up through (U.S. Army Installation Management Command)headquarters,” said Manson. “About two years later, the funding for the materials came down because it was a self-help project to be completed by the Soldiers."At that time, Manson and then project lead Warrant Officer Alexis Forchiney projected the bunker to be finished by around June of this year.Herrmann came on board in March, taking over as platoon leader and the new project lead just as COVID-19 shut it down.“I’ve heard there’s a curse on Crumb Range. I’m the fourth project lead now,” said Herrmann. “The bunker is very technically difficult, looking at the plans, but when you get down to the nitty gritty, it’s basically step-by-step.”Manson recently said the company has had a lot of technical assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers throughout the process.“They were able to look at the plans, and how the engineers wanted to attack some of the construction process, and the Corps has basically helped them validate, ‘Okay yeah, that’s the right way to do it,’ or maybe giving them some recommendations on how to do it better.”Manson said having the Soldiers provide labor for the project has also been a big benefit to making the bunker financially possible. Fort Knox’s cost to date has been between $400,000 and $500,000.“When it’s all said and done, there are about 45 in this platoon working this right now, so you can imagine if I had that workforce on site how much that would cost,” said Manson. “I think that accounts for about $1.5 million in savings for manpower. By the time this is done, we’re looking at closer to $2 million, or more.”Herrmann said planning for and ordering the resources and making sure they arrive on site, on time, is sometimes the more difficult part of constructing the bunker. That, and working with Soldiers who have never built a facility like this.“This is the Soldiers’ first time doing a project like this. They’re not trained doing anything with rebar or giant concrete bunkers in [Advanced Individual Training],” said Herrmann. “It’s a huge learning curve for them, and for me as a platoon leader. Trying to learn this as we go is also a big factor.”Sergeant Dalton Baggett is accustomed to working with rebar and concrete. A carpentry/masonry specialist at 15th ECC, he said he worked on construction sites prior to joining the Army four years ago, and he and his fellow Soldiers are determined to finish the job.“Despite the weather or if the orders aren’t right, we try to make sure we get in some progress every day,” said Baggett. “The people are definitely the best part, too. Any job site can be hard, depending on who you’re with.“The people we’re currently with, and who we have and have had in charge, have made it a lot easier.”