Pfc. Shawn Littleton competes in what’s called the hurt-man rescue event during the U.S. Army Prime Power School Lineman’s Rodeo Tuesday behind the USAPPS building.
Pfc. Shawn Littleton competes in what’s called the hurt-man rescue event during the U.S. Army Prime Power School Lineman’s Rodeo Tuesday behind the USAPPS building. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Soldiers attending the U.S. Army Prime Power School’s Power Line Distribution Course here demonstrated knowledge gained over the past 10 weeks during a Lineman’s Rodeo competition Tuesday.

The seven students — who graduate the course on Friday — completed four graded tasks that required them to climb wooden poles and perform many of their duties from 40 feet above the ground.

This iteration of the rodeo featured two known events — a speed climb and what’s called a hurt-man rescue — and two surprise events — an insulator change out and a fuse change out by extendable arm, said Prime Power School 1st Sgt. Mark Verry.

“Any one of their critical tasks could end up here in the rodeo,” he said.

Throughout the course, Verry said the students learn how to free climb; how to use utility trucks; how to set and replace poles; and they learn overhead and underground power distribution, as well as final connection to customers.

In addition to the rodeo, the students also use the knowledge gained in the course when they participate in what’s called storm night, a simulated natural disaster that destroys overhead and underground distribution. The Soldiers are required to put together a plan, “and they don’t go home until it’s all repaired,” Verry said — one of the most important missions of an Army Prime Power Production Specialist is natural disaster response.

“When natural disasters come through any given area — whether it’s an ice storm, a hurricane, an earthquake — and the infrastructure is destroyed, it hampers emergency relief and humanitarian operations,” Verry said. “These Soldiers have that capability to go into those zones and really affect the mission and improve the daily life of those struggling with that event.”

One of the students participating in the rodeo was Spc. Grant Roberts, a Reserve Soldier with Company D, 249th Engineer Battalion, in Cranston, Rhode Island. He said he enjoyed the course.

“I love the work,” he said. “It’s hard work — you’re outside in all kinds of weather — but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

Roberts, originally from nearby Camdenton, Missouri, said the best part of the course was the climbing.

“Those few weeks, when we were on the poles all the time, I really liked that,” he said. “That’s what I think of when I think of a lineman — somebody climbing a pole.”

Roberts’ parents, Ron and Carolyn, were on hand to watch their son participate in the rodeo. They both said climbing is something their son has always liked to do.

“We’d go to Ha Ha Tonka (State Park, near Camdenton), and he was always climbing on the rocks, up high, and it never seemed to bother him,” Ron said. “We’ve really liked to see what he’s been doing and learning, so it’s really fun for us to come out and see this and enjoy it.”

Another student, Pfc. Shawn Littleton — originally from Atlantic City, New Jersey — attended a civilian school right out of high school that he said was similar to the USAPPS. After doing lineman work for more than two years in the civilian world, Littleton wanted to broaden his experience by becoming a lineman in the Army — he said he enjoyed the Army’s approach to educating its lineman Soldiers.

“The school I went to in New York, I think there were 55 of us who graduated, and there were only four instructors for all of us,” he said. “They all had field experience, but it was hard to get that one-on-one individual learning with all of us. Here, we had four instructors for seven of us, and they’re also willing to stay after. This is a really great school. They teach you a lot. The instructors are very knowledgeable; they’re also very caring. I asked them questions day in and day out about electrical theory and how everything works.”

Tuesday’s event was the second rodeo the school put on so far this year and the 23rd since the course stood up in 2015, Verry said.

USAPPS trains an average of about 55 students a year. In addition to the distribution course, three additional skills identifier courses are also taught here — for electricians, instrumentation technicians and mechanics — along with the 12Q Army Reserve course and a separate Advanced Leader Course for Soldiers being promoted to staff sergeant. The courses involve academic subjects such as mathematics, physics, electrical and mechanical engineering.