By Spc. Cameron McCownMay 23, 2008
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SANTA FE, Calif.-Bridge building has both a surface and a deeper meaning for the Soldiers of the Army Reserve 652nd Engineer Company from Ellsworth, Wis.
Connecting people with other people is something the unit does both on deployment and at home.
"It's good training," said Sgt. David M. O'Conner, regarding the unit's activity while at the National Training Center.
The 652nd is training how to build 20-meter and 40-meter dry support bridges (DSB) in a war-time scenario, particularly focusing on the training of their newest Soldiers.
The unit is one of approximately 75 Army Reserve units training at NTC in Operation Sand Castle (OSC) for their 25-day Extended Combat Training (ECT), formally known as annual training (AT).
"We're learning a lot and having a good time," O'Conner added.
Cpl. Jerry A. Clark said the company will be in an "on call" status throughout their time at NTC which means they have to be ready to leave and build anytime a unit needs them.
"We're here to serve other Soldiers," he said, "It's part of our job."
In the area surrounding their home station of Ellsworth, the 652nd Engineers are also active building bridges with the local community, literally and figuratively.
While bridge-building is a military duty, 2nd Lt. Kyle J. Lundequam, commander, says, it's also a civic duty for his Soldiers.
"Our support team is working with a middle school in July to help flatten an area to create a ball field," said Lundequam, motioning to a schedule he printed.
The commander also said there are seven Soldiers currently showcasing a DSB at a military expo in Minneapolis, Minn.
Sgt. Tracy D. Carmon added that the unit drives bridge erection boats through a number of parades annually in an attempt to recruit and disseminate the unit's name. "Anytime anybody in the community calls, we're happy to come out an assist," he said.
Whether in combat building bridges for transportation or at home building bridges with relationships, Soldiers of the 652nd Engineer Company use their military skills to serve the people around them. O'Conner says this is how they play their part in serving their nation and to support the Global War on Terror.
Operation Sand Castle is in its fourth year of a projected 10-year exercise to enhance the readiness of Army Reserve units for deployment and is the only Army Reserve exercise that integrates with an active duty Brigade Combat Team (BCT). The 412th Engineer Command, Vicksburg, Miss, is the Executive Agent responsible for planning, logistics and training of all participants. Additionally, OSC's engineer units provide upgrades to existing NTC training facilities and urban operations cities and will ultimately complete a new urban operation city for training an entire BCT.