Tiffany Nabors, The Bayonet

FORT BENNING, Ga. - A group of more than 60 Department of Defense civilians from installations around the world got a hands-on introduction Tuesday to what military engineers do at Fort Benning.

The bridge-building demonstration was one of the many exercises participants in the Executive Leadership Development Program have taken part in since they began the 10-month professional development program in October.

When they arrived at Engineer Landing on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, there wasn't a way for military vehicles to get across the 300-foot-wide waterway. But nearly an hour later, the Soldiers of 11th Engineer Battalion's 362nd Engineer Company (Multi-Role Bridge) had erected a full-closure bridge capable of supporting tanks and other vehicles.

The unit transported the sections of the bridge, or bays, to the site. The bays were released and connected like Legos in the river under the direction of company commander CPT Frederick Cummings.

He said the unit has the capability of constructing bridges that span up to 700 feet as well as repairing and demolishing floating and fixed bridges.

"Our mission as engineers is to facilitate mobility for maneuver forces to cross obstacles so they can do their follow-on mission" he said.

Members of the ELDP team worked alongside Soldiers Tuesday to make that happen.
"This is an opportunity that we otherwise wouldn't have the chance to participate in," said Ellis Haynes after twisting a device to connect two portions of the bridge. "It's quite interesting because you see what (Soldiers) do on TV sometimes, but to come out here and see them train is phenomenal."

Haynes works as an Equal Employment Opportunity investigator at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, but will be moving into management in Sacramento, Calif., in June. He said he gained a better understanding of what it takes to be a Soldier and what they do to support the mission.

That understanding was the goal for the day, said battalion commander LTC Dwayne Smith.

"It's great for our guys to see people they know are at the executive level come here and get hands on," he said. "(The water) is the office for (these Soldiers). This is what they do, and this gives them a chance to show off a little bit."

Among other stops, the ELDP group has visited California, Virginia, Hawaii and South Korea.

ELDP participant David Michael, who works at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, as a foreign affairs specialist, said he felt fortunate to be chosen for the program from among the nearly 600 applicants.

"These are the best of the best we have to offer in civil service," Michael said. "This is where you need to be if you want to advance."

Although Michael retired from the Air Force after 15 years of service, many ELDP participants have no military background.

"We have gone virtually around the world visiting the major military installations," Michael said. "It's been absolutely beneficial."

The group will conclude their training in June with a scheduled briefing from the secretary of defense in Washington, D.C.

For more information on ELDP, visit

About ELDP
- Established in 1985
- Provides better understanding and appreciation of today's warfighters
- Features briefings on defense and international issues
- Includes hands-on field experiences
- Must be GS 12-14 or military 0-3 (promotable) or O-4 to be nominated