FORT DRUM, N.Y. - In combat, having the freedom to maneuver can directly affect the outcome of a battle. Rough terrain, or in this case, a deep, wide river with a powerful current, can impede or even stop Soldiers in their tracks. To overcome this obstacle and continue with the mission, Connecticut’s Home Team calls in the engineers.
Not just any engineers, however. Connecticut calls on Soldiers from the 250th Engineer Company (Multi-Role Bridge Company) based out of New London. These bridge crewmembers have the skills and equipment to assemble improved ribbon bridges, allowing their fellow Soldiers and vehicles to cross rivers safely and efficiently.
The unit traditionally trains to cross rivers, known as a wet gap crossing, on the Thames River back home. However, these Soldiers showcased their skills during their recent annual training at Fort Drum, where they set up an improved ribbon bridge across the turbulent Black River, a river so dangerous in some areas that Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division prohibit their Soldiers from swimming in it.
Improved Ribbon Bridges are formed from components of the IRB Float Ribbon Bridge System, which uses interior bays and ramp bays to create a bridge that can support the weight of up to 110 wheeled or 90 tracked tactical vehicles.
“This current is very strong,” said Connecticut Army National Guard Spc. Ethan Kanlong, one of the bridge crewmembers. “We’re using all our boats right now. You’re supposed to have one [boat] every three or four bays to keep control of it [the bridge].”
The crossing took eight of the company’s boats. The ones not being used to support the bridge and keep it from flowing down the river paced up and down by the launching site, picking up sections of the bridge and ferrying them to be collected and assembled. After all the bays were put together, the boats then shifted the bridge into place.
After the bridge was set and positioned, units from across the 143rd Regional Support Group used it as part of their combined training mission. Some of these vehicles included humvees carrying troops and military ambulances transporting simulated casualties from the training area to medical centers.
“This is the biggest one we do,” said Kanlong. “It’s cool to see something we built work. That’s the job. We build the bridge, we take it apart, keep moving.”