NAVAL STATION NORFOLK, Va. — Upon successfully completing basic combat training, a Soldier not only acquires the foundational skills that they need to serve in the military but also embraces the Army Values, equipped with both physical and mental resilience to execute their designated responsibilities. For those who embark on the journey as U.S. Army engineers, an additional layer of complexity is introduced to their missions and tasks. Whether they specialize in fields such as construction engineering, diving, or surveying, creativity and rapid problem-solving become indispensable components of an engineer's skillset. Each engineer's daunting yet vital responsibility is to uphold the delicate equilibrium between structure and innovation.
Army engineers play a crucial role in surveying and repairing waterfront infrastructure in support of Port Damage Repair (PDR) and mobility operations. These intricate and critical tasks facilitate the construction and maintenance of communication lines essential during all phases of joint military operations. Their missions bolster naval operations and underscore the United States military's ability to swiftly construct or restore ports as needed.
In late August, U.S. Army carpenters, heavy equipment operators, and surveyors from the 554th Engineer Construction Company teamed up with the engineer divers from the 74th, 86th and 511th Engineer Dive Detachments to survey and repair a damaged tugboat pier at Naval Station Norfolk. This operation presented a unique opportunity to experiment with new equipment, develop enduring standard operating procedures, and train diver and engineer capabilities. Throughout the operation, engineers also field-tested two innovative solutions for pile driving and stabilizing platforms, potentially applicable across the entire military force in the future.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Haten, a battalion construction engineering technician, designed a unique pile driver attachment and worked with a team of welders to build a prototype. With this design, any Army team can execute limited pile driving using a hydraulic excavator, steel, and welding equipment.
“This operation was a great opportunity to test the limits of our equipment and capabilities,” said Haten. “It’s important for us to keep trying new things and learn what we can do with our organic equipment.”
On the diving team, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Staats, a diving supervisor, came up with the idea of attaching hunting tree stands to the piles during the operation. By being able to hang directly on the pier, the diver has increased stability as he is now unaffected by the tide. Most other divers are accustomed to standing on blocks on the water that will constantly shake around and slide away from the pier.
“The idea was based on a PDR exercise conducted with the Engineer Research and Development Center in 2017,” Staats explained. “I realized the tree stands I use every hunting season can help us do the exact same thing for port operations. It ended up saving us a ton of hassle in the process, so I’m happy about that.”
Not only did the 74th EDD and 554th ECC accomplish the mission, but they also tested new equipment and discovered innovative solutions to accomplish the mission. Soldiers from within the XVIII Airborne Corps continue to enhance their capabilities with ground-up innovation, paving the way to become the Army of 2030.