By 1st Lt. John Spies, 1st Platoon, 561st Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment CommandDecember 6, 2012
POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii -- The Soldiers of the 561st Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, successfully completed a 2.3-mile stretch of roadway at the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island, Oct. 26.
The construction project marked the beginning of the Keamuku Main Supply Route at PTA. The initial 2.3 miles of roadway will be expanded in the coming years and Keamuku MSR will exceed 18 miles once completed. The section completed by the engineers of 561st will be immediately utilized by follow-on units as a drivers' training course for Stryker vehicles.
The 561st conducted construction operations over the course of the 65-day mission with great motivation and enthusiasm. The scope of the project included: three low water crossing improvements that required the emplacement of articulating matting, five vertical curve improvements that required extensive cutting, clearing and grubbing to widen the roadway, and hauling over 40,000 tons of material from the quarry out to the MSR.
Mission success depended on teamwork from all Soldiers in the 561st. First Platoon was tasked with construction of the roadway, 3rd Platoon completed hauling all material out to the jobsite, and Maintenance Platoon ensured all vehicles remained up and running.
"It was great to see the entire company working together towards the same end state," said 1st Lt. William Thomson, executive officer for the 561st Eng. Co. "Despite challenges, I really think everyone was pleased with the quality of roadway the company was able to produce."
The engineers overcame numerous obstacles to complete the roadway on time, but, perhaps the greatest challenge was the soil conditions at PTA.
"The volcanic soil on the island does not allow for optimal compaction," noted Sgt. First Class Earl Bartley, platoon sergeant for the 561st Eng Co. "Once we clear and grub, the soil turns powdery and becomes very difficult to work with."
Water trucks provided some relief as the water helped to stabilize the soil and keep the dust down. Construction continued through adverse conditions and in the end all obstacles were negotiated successfully.
As a construction-effects battalion, the 84th Eng. Bn. provides a wide range of capabilities, from undertaking various construction projects, to supporting humanitarian assistance, and combat operations overseas.
The 561st Eng. Co. will continue to sharpen their technical operating skills in the coming months, and will also have their tactical competence tested at the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin. Platoons will rotate through NTC beginning late second quarter; each platoon will complete 30 days of training at Ft. Irwin.