News: Bringing it down nail-by-nail; Guam engineers deconstruct unsound guard tower
Story by Sgt. Michael Connors
FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. - In the digital age, which has seen more and more soldiers behind computers, some are still tackling work the old-fashioned way.
In this case, it’s a team of the 797th Engineer Company, who recently dismantled a two-story guard tower nail-by-nail July 19 with little more than sledgehammers, hammers and pliers. It took the team of seven five-and-a-half hours to complete the task through the blazing mid-day sun, with temperatures hovering around 90 degrees.
The 797th, an Army Reserve unit from Guam, is supporting Combat Support Training Exercise 91 on Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif. The 91st Training Division (Operations) is leading the exercise.
“Everyone was safe — no problems,” reported Spc. Mark Porte, one of the team members. They were outfitted for safety throughout the mission: full uniforms, eye protection, Kevlar helmets and plenty of water in their camelbacks. The site was also properly taped off, so passersby wouldn’t get to close to the action. The team was also careful to remove and collect every last nail, so they wouldn’t be a hazard lying on the ground or sticking out from boards.
The mission was a fragmentary order, meaning the guard-tower deconstruction wasn’t initially planned as part of the training exercise.
Sgt. Chris Mafnas, another team member, said senior unit leaders inspected all guard towers on Base Camp Schoonover — where the 797th is based on Fort Hunter Liggett for the exercise — and determined two of them had compromised integrity due to cracked and brittle wood from aging. Both were dismantled.
The unit, here for 29 days, is currently fabricating new guard towers and small buildings in addition to completing tactical training.
“Our main mission out here is to get hands-on training,” said Spc. Walter Cruz, who also helped bring down the tower. “This is the time where we bond with one another and understand what it’s like being in ‘the sandbox’ and the real meaning of teamwork in an unknown environment.”
Mafnas echoed his fellow unit member.
“Back home, we only get together once a month,” he said. “But out here we live the actual deployment life, so we get to know each other better. We learn from each others’ different MOSs [military occupational specialties] and just basically get the feel for ‘the sandbox.’”
“The sandbox” refers to the exercise’s simulation of an austere desert environment. Although Fort Hunter Liggett lies in the central coast region of California, desert-like conditions abound — dust storms and 100-plus degree days are not uncommon — making for a very realistic experience. This makes it all the more difficult for a unit from Guam acclimating to these conditions.
“We’re dealing with climate changes on top of our mission,” affirmed Cruz.
Yet, despite the long, hot days in trying conditions, Cruz, who is a senior specialist in the unit, remains focused on working with others to train up newer soldiers.
“We’re showing them the meaning of teamwork and what it takes to live in this kind of environment,” he said. “We have our mission ahead of us, but we also have our soldiers from our left to right — we have to think about them and adapt with them.”
This work, Bringing it down nail-by-nail; Guam engineers deconstruct unsound guard tower, by SGT Michael Connors, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.