FORT HOOD, Texas - The 36th Engineer Brigade Soldiers conducted a detonation project that benefited them, Fort Hood and the Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area, as they demolished the BLORA water park here, Oct. 19 and Nov. 4.
The BLORA water park, opened in 1986, and hasn’t been in operation since 2017. The 36th Engineer Brigade cleared the unusable water park, allowing them to put in training time and leave the space open for potential future additions to the recreational area.
“Having troops do this is saving III Corps and MWR (Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare & Recreation) a lot of money. Those funds can be turned by MWR into something else that’ll benefit not just the Soldiers and their families, but people in the area. In that case, it’s like paying it forward to, not just our unit, but everyone that lives here,” Capt. Jared Whitaker, 937th Clearance Company, 20th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Bde., said.
He added, “On top of that, this is a massive training opportunity for the Soldiers in the company. Leaders get training on project management because, at the end of the day, it’s still a construction project. Our equipment operators got a lot of stick time using the machinery and understanding what it takes to achieve this kind of objective where we’ve got to move a significant amount of earth. When we were breaking the concrete, we were using tools that haven’t really been used in a long time because they have a specific application. Our combat engineers get the opportunity to calculate and construct specific charges not often used. So, there was a lot of different training for every occupation in the company.”
The planning process began in July with the unit figuring safe blasting distances, hazard areas and deciding what kind of explosives were the best fit for the job.
“We are demoing two slides, which are 120 feet in length. In order to accomplish the desired effect of cutting the slide into 10-foot sections for easy removal we will use linear flex charges which are made out of detonation cord,” 1st Lt. Ben Lessard, 36th Engineer Bde., explained. “In order to safely do this, we have calculated our minimum safe distance and our net explosive weight to stay within our approved window.”
There were multiple challenging elements of the months-long process of clearing the water park, from planning to execution, but at the end of the day, it has to be done.
“This project is likely the capstone for the company and a significant one for the battalion this year, in my opinion. This is the largest task that we’ve taken on in a long time and probably one of the most unique things that these Soldiers are going to do or have done. The first day was overwhelming and I don’t think it’s been anytime recently that the whole company has executed a large mission like this. Getting everybody out here with multi-dimensional, multifaceted areas of expertise (is unique),” Whitaker said. “You’ve got the 12B combat engineers focusing on explosive demolition and then you’ve got an earth moving operation that the 12N equipment operators excel at. The Survey and Design section from our Higher Headquarters Company has been assisting with the project from the beginning.”
The captain said the Soldiers picked up on the plan quickly and, over the course of the large project, he’s been happy to see the overall progression of the Soldiers.
“It’s awesome seeing the junior leaders and Soldiers in the company participate in an operation like this and the company, as a whole, come together to accomplish this extraordinary task. It’s been great watching the company excel,” he said. “They see this as an opportunity to learn and show their mettle. I’ve noticed that our NCOs (noncommissioned officers) have found this as a great opportunity (to step up). Especially when someone can’t make it out a certain day or they’ve got to something else that needs to be handled administratively back at the company. (They) demonstrate to, not just their platoon leadership, but to myself, the first sergeant, and the battalion that they’re exceptional NCOs.”