By Spc. Zachary R. Fehrman
Ohio National Guard
CAMP GRAYLING, Mich. - A small group of combat engineers huddled between the hull and lower fold of an Armored Vehicle Launch Bridge on June 11 at the Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site at Camp Grayling, Mich., while working through a list of checks and services.
"Basically, we have done two days of drivers' training," said Staff Sgt. Andrew Kolasky of Loraine, Ohio. "The driving is pretty straightforward, but we are focusing on training the trainer for the company."
Because the Cleveland-based 837th Engineer Company, Ohio Army National Guard, doesn't house their AVLBs at their home unit, many of its Soldiers are unfamiliar with the vehicle.
"The Soldiers are brand new to the equipment," said Sgt. David Fettig, a Michigan National Guard troop and service mechanic at MATES. "Many of them have never even seen it."
Camp Grayling's MATES is where tracked vehicles, including the AVLB, are stored for the Ohio Army National Guard and other states. Because they store the equipment here, the Michigan Guard employs fulltime personnel to maintain the equipment. Those Michigan troops are helping to train the Ohio engineers over the next two weeks of annual training. As a result, the Ohio and Michigan troops quickly built a rapport.
"It really makes it feel like you are part of the bigger picture," said Spc. Antoine Frazer, a Cleveland native.
"I figured they would be a lot more intimidated, but they're doing great," Fettig said.
The AVLB weighs 55 tons with 15 in the bridge alone. The bridge extends 60 feet and can be detached from the vehicle. It can carry any vehicle in the Army inventory, Fettig said.
"Don't be scared. Don't be scared; I got it," Frazer said excitedly when describing how it felt to train on the massive equipment. "It looked really complicated, but it's not. It's got five controls, and you only really need three of them."
"It's like learning to handle a woman," he added with a grin.
The Ohio Soldiers will continue their drivers training for the remainder of their annual training period to further familiarize themselves with the AVLB.