News: Engineers Combine Road Building, Combat Training
Story by Sgt. Jon Soles
FORT MCCOY, Wis. – Spc. Christopher Wardpipe keeps a watchful eye on the road. He is aware an attack could happen at any time during the mission to repair a washed out road. Suddenly, a flash of light and thunderous explosion signal an insurgent attack, changing the mission into a fight to stay alive.
Wardpipe, a native of Warren, Mich., finds himself on the ground, providing cover fire and advancing on four insurgents in a nearby wood line. The attack is only pyrotechnics, blank rounds and role players.
“The training was very good and we were able to continue our mission to repair the road despite the enemy attack,” said Wardpipe, a masonry and carpentry specialist who is assigned to the 486th Eng. Bn., 983rd Eng. Bn., 372nd Eng. Bde., 416th TEC. “I’ve been deployed before as an engineer and this is excellent training,”
The situational exercise, March 31, is as real as it gets during Warrior Exercise 86-14-02 (WAREX), March 31. The annual event is an Army Reserve and National Guard training exercise involving more than 4,500 Soldiers from more than 60 units from 30 states and Puerto Rico.
Soldiers of the 996th and 486th Engineering Battalions, 372nd Engineering Brigade, 416th Tactical Engineering Command, are repairing a road with the added scenario of an insurgent attack to train for what they might encounter on a deployment. The training is important for engineers whose job will often expose them to enemy forces on roadways and other open areas.
Soldiers were evaluated by Observer Controller Trainers (OCTs) who offered guidance about the importance of unit self-sufficiency and individual battle skills. Combat deployed engineers might be tasked to clear or repair roads without the assistance of infantry protection or route clearance units.
“Infantry or route clearance assets will not always be there and we want engineers to get into the mindset of not relying on them,” said Master Sgt. Scott Voeltz of Sioux Falls, Iowa, an OCT assigned to the 361st Training Support Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment. “These units contain many junior enlisted Soldiers who need this kind of real-world training to get their confidence up so they can repel an attack.”
When the attack scenario ended, the Soldiers gathered for an evaluation to learn how to improve reaction to an attack. The OCTs combined tactical knowledge from experience and lessons learned to help the Soldiers see ways they can improve.
“We wanted them to start taking charge, to have the confidence to fight the battle, but also continue the mission to get the road repaired,” said Capt. Geordan Bowers, an active duty OCT assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 364th Engineer Regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas. “These guys know their job, but we also want to help them with the tactical training they don’t get very often.”
Afterward, engineers got back to work with dump trucks and bulldozers, completing the road repair and restoring a vital transportation link to keep troops and supplies moving.
Whether it’s light infantry riding out in Humvees, a fuel supply convoy or a civil affairs relief mission, Soldiers depend on functional roads to accomplish their missions. Training at WAREX will help the engineers improve their building and fighting skills.