News: Survey unit goes back-to-basics
Story by Staff Sgt. Debralee Best
FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. – Technology is often used to make jobs more efficient and run more smoothly. One unit providing support for Castle Installation Related Construction at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, has found going back-to-basics more convenient for their projects.
The 476th Engineer Detachment, Survey and Design team, is providing land surveys, elevation measurements and project planning in support of the engineers providing civic improvements at Fort Hunter Liggett, Aug. 6 to 19.
For the survey and design team this is a mission like any other they would perform, with one slight difference.
“The only thing different is the survey equipment,” said U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Tyler Pongrazzi, 476th Engineer Detachment, technical engineer from Hazleton, Pennsylvania. “The equipment we got in the schoolhouse was more advanced than this, but that’s the only difference.”
While the equipment the technical engineers trained on was more advanced, the Soldiers said they find the older equipment more relevant for missions at Castle IRC.
“We’re using an old-school auto[matic] level and [Philadelphia level] 'Philly' rod. Not many detachments use this method,” said U.S. Army Reserve Pfc. John Curley, 476th Engineer Detachment, technical engineer, from Marion Heights, Pennsylvania. “It’s cool we get to because this is the basics and it’s really the most practical way to do this site [the law enforcement Humvee parking lot]. It tells us which way we need to slope the grade.”
These tools are used to calculate the elevations, which is then used to calculate the correct grade.
“It’s important because if you don’t know the elevations, then you’re not going to know if the grade is right, if it needs to slope to a certain spot,” said Pongrazzi.
Elevations and grades are important to Pongrazzi because he wants his Soldiers to be accurate. He also wants them to use their time at Castle IRC to become more adept in the technical aspects of the job.
“I want them to be able to be proficient, to go out there and have it done without anyone having to micromanage them and look over their shoulder all the time,” said Pongrazzi. “To be able to do a project from start to finish without any hiccups and they don’t have to ask anybody else any questions. Just be able to do it right there.”
To do this, Pongrazzi ensures his Soldiers are getting as much experience as possible.
“We switch them out on every project so they all get hands-on on every aspect of our job,” he said.
The hands-on training is paying off, according to Curley.
“I hope to be able to, next time we come out to survey, just come out and do whatever the [noncommissioned officer-in-charge] needs of me,” he said. “Before I was like, ‘oh, I don’t really know how to do this,’ but this [extended combat training] we have the time to train me on everything. I would just get bits and pieces before, but here I can see from setup to tear down.”
Competence is critical to Pongrazzi, but he said in survey and design it’s also essential to be flexible.
“The aspect that things are changing right away is good, good training so they know things are going to change and you’re going to have to go back and switch things on a project to make things work,” he said.
While the technical aspects and the flexibility is important, Curley said he enjoys that part of survey and design, but the best part for him is the Soldiers next to him.
“My team is great. These guys are like my best friends,” he said. “I think it’s easier working in a detachment where it’s only 10 to 15 people because it’s the same people I deal with all the time. It just gets easier and easier to deal with them. You get to know how each person works.”