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    1249TH Engineer Battalion Lays Foundation For Future Growth of Camp Umatilla

    442 Engineers Build First Permanent Modern Shoot House

    Photo By Spc. Michael Germundson | Oregon Army National Guard Spc. Gabriel Mischke, strikes the joint of fresh laid block...... read more read more

    The 1249th Engineer Battalion conducted their two-week annual training at Camp Umatilla, Ore. June 14-30.

    Located 180 miles east of Portland nestled next to the Columbia River, Camp Umatilla dates back to WWII. At its height, the location’s expanse was equal to that of Bend, Ore. and served as a retired US Army Chemical Depot. Today, the site covers 20 square miles and is dotted with 1,000 storage bunkers from wars past. Primarily, it serves as a training facility for the Oregon Army National Guard and, with the help of the 1249th, has plans for growth. The Oregon Army National Guard has finalized a deal for 7,500 acres, and plans to build a level three training facility that will work in tandem with the Naval Weapon System Training Facility Boardman just down the road. While this practical work is completed, members of the 1249th have the opportunity to use this historic training site for quality engineering training.

    "The 1249th was identified as a great asset to begin laying the groundwork and start building the initial Military Operations on Urban Training (MOUT) site," said Lt. Col. Manuel Robledo, Executive and Administrative Officer, Oregon Training Command. "The Oregon Guard is committed to Umatilla; it will allow us to shoot, move and communicate whereas our relationship with the Naval Weapon System Training Facility Boardman (NWSTFB) will allow for training on crew-served weapons."

    The battalion contains both vertical and horizontal engineer elements as well as their own support (A FSC) and headquarter (HHC) companies. Each element is spread throughout Camp Umatilla during the training period with their own respective missions that build toward the Oregon Training Command’s own goal: growth. This type of exercise allows Soldiers to get away from administrative tasks and focus on their boots-on-ground training.

    To facilitate future convoy training, horizontal engineers of the 224th Engineer Company. from Newport, Ore. cut maneuver trails that intersect with a three acre battalion sized assembly area. The 224th used a 120M Motor Grader to cut the first section of maneuver trails between the old storage bunkers.

    According to Captain Joseph Zimmerman, commander of the 224th, the heavy equipment operators gained valuable experience while increasing the capability of Camp Umatilla to provide convoy maneuver trails rarely seen at other training sites.

    "This project is a lot of fun," Zimmerman said, "Soldiers get to do the job they signed up to do and that keeps them wanting to come back for more."

    Further down the road, vertical engineers of the 442 Engineer Utility Detachment (EUD) worked diligently on their own project: building a permanent three-room structure that will allow Soldiers to hone basic combat skills such as entering and clearing a room.

    According to Cpt. Keith Lyman, commander of the 442 EUD, the structure they were erecting is set to be the first permanent block and mortar building on the designated MOUT site. Up until now, any training on site required the use of CONEX shipping containers to simulate buildings. Consisting of three phases, the unit is now in their final phase of construction, which has spanned the past several months. To get this far they had to transfer their equipment to the site from Camp Rilea in Warrenton, Ore., conduct a three-day drill to prepare the site for a concrete foundation, and finally lay down blocks.

    "A highlight leading up to annual training was a flight in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from Camp Rilea to Camp Umatilla," Lyman said, explaining that several of his Soldiers got the chance to fly out to meet their equipment which had been transported ahead of time. "Overall it's been a good mission; there's been a lot of military occupational specialty (MOS) training and the motivation is high.”

    One of Cpt. Lyman’s most experienced Soldiers, Sgt. Steve Jared, lead the vertical project and has years of construction experience both with the military and with the civilian sector, giving him a unique perspective on the project.

    "Most Soldiers don't lay block as civilians; here they get to learn a new trade, and it allows them to work in tandem and improve communication," said Jared.

    The project has also been successful for the unit because there has been ample opportunity for Soldiers to learn skill sets outside their given specialty. Receiving and exchanging new knowledge benefits units by keeping Soldiers engaged and motivated.

    While the training has been productive, it has also presented challenges. Umatilla’s flat plains make it prone to howling winds and its aired climate makes for hot summer days and cold nights.

    Pvt. Adrian Ortega, an equipment operator new to the 224th Engineer Company, enjoyed the experience he gained from shooting his M4 during weapon familiarization training. "It's been fun so far, but it's so hot out here," said Ortega.

    In addition to honing their abilities as engineers, time was also allotted for practicing basic Soldier skills. Going into a field environment, each Soldier is issued a weapon, and expected to master it.

    Beyond the individual weapons, most Soldiers were expected to know how to operate crew-served weapons. Most commonly, the two systems used in convoy operations are the M249 and the Browning M2 .50 Caliber machine gun. While Camp Umatilla itself does not have a range capable of hosting the M2, just down the road the Naval Weapon System Training Facility Boardman (NWSTFB) does, and is the only one in Oregon. Having access to both locations allows Soldiers the rare opportunity to train on multiple weapon systems.

    The M2 familiarization was led by Sgt. Timothy Savunen, an Allied Trade Specialist with A Company, Forward Support Company. Savunen joined the Army National Guard after serving as a Marine and led a class of 15 Soldiers in the proper operation of a weapon system; loading, unloading, and how to safely react to a jammed weapon.

    "This is my passion: weapons, tactics and training," said Savunen.

    Savunen came to the 1249TH Engineers with a high level of experience which allowed him to instruct future gunners. The instruction laid the foundation for new gunners to meet the requirements of a military vehicle fit with a heavy machine gun and expanded on training qualified gunners have received in the past.

    "It is important for Soldiers not on active duty to be familiar with the M2 so they can build on previous experience," said Pfc. Reyes Ceja, a member of A Company, Forward Support Company.

    Similar sentiments were shared by other members of the Forward Support Company.

    "The M2 is part of my truck,” said Spc. James Connin. “Being familiar with how to load, unload and shoot is important. This is our second year shooting and it takes a while, but it comes back and you start to remember the steps."

    By the end of their annual training, the engineers completed building a Battalion sized staging area, a three room shoot house, and a system of maneuver trails around the growing training site.

    The leaders and individual companies were evaluated on their Mission Essential Task List (METL) and conducted several training scenarios to improve perimeter defense. Skills and communication were improved at the individual and team level and several Soldiers experienced annual training for the first time.

    “The goal right now is to build Camp Umatilla up to be the premier training facility of the Oregon Army National Guard within Oregon,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Vidourek, 1249TH battalion commander.

    Vidourek added “With it being right down the road from Naval Weapon System Training Facility, Boardman, this means we can maximize our training for METL tasks ranging from crew-served weapons to convoy operations, and command post exercises, in addition our engineer METL tasks. We understand to get there will take diligent work over a long period of time, but it will mean a lot of training opportunities for our Soldiers, and we’re ready for the challenge.”



    Date Taken: 06.28.2019
    Date Posted: 07.24.2019 15:00
    Story ID: 329720
    Location: OR, US

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