FORT IRWIN, CA, UNITED STATES
Story by Staff Sgt. Rauel Tirado
204th Public Affairs Detachment
FORT IRWIN, Calif. — Many Soldiers have stories of working hard outside in the elements and at the end of the day they were dirty beyond belief. For the Soldiers of 259th Quarry Platoon, of the 253rd Engineer Battalion, Arizona National Guard, getting dirty is a way of life whether deployed overseas or here at the National Training Center.
The 259th Soldiers, from Phoenix, Arizona, are participating in Operation Sand Castle 2009. The operation will combined over 20 engineer units from all over the country for construction projects and training in a tactical environment at NTC.
In this operation, the unit has an important role that requires moving and crushing tons of rocks for several construction projects.
"We make big rocks into little rocks and any different size you may need" said Sgt. Christie Estrada, heavy equipment operator of the 259th Quarry Platoon. "We have a 150-ton per-hour Rock Crusher on site. When the Rock Crusher is crushing rocks, clouds of dust and debris surround the machine. The machine operators are covered all over their body with dirt and debris only peep hole on their goggles to see."
The small unit has approximately 22 soldiers on site. They have been working a 24 hour operation since the beginning of July. The unit will crush tons of rocks into huge piles of gravel, which can change the landscape of the surrounding area.
"We have crushed more than 12,000 tons of rocks and have exceeded our goal for the mission," said Estrada.
The gravel that is being produced will be used by the 411th Engineer Brigade for OSC 09. The brigade is responsible for several roads and building projects in the tactical training area also known as 'the box' here at NTC.
Not only does the unit crush rocks for construction projects, they must complete the mission in a tactical environment.
"This is a good experience for our Soldiers because the training is very realistic," said 1st Lt. Michael Potter, commander of the 259th Quarry Platoon. "The environment here in NTC is the nearest thing my Soldiers will get to a real world experience that resembles Iraq and Afghanistan."
Potter explains that the unit is also doing something different in their training. When the unit trains in Arizona, huge rocks and dirt are brought in from different areas. Then the rocks are fed to the Rock Crusher. That is normally the training opportunity the soldiers receive on crushing rocks.
For this operation the unit will have to dig for their own rocks and dirt. This gives the Soldiers the opportunity to train on digging and pulling tons of rocks from the earth. The gravel used for the construction projects during OSC 09 will be supplied from the NTC's own Tiefort Mountain.
The unit site is located on the side of Tiefort Mountain and has its own Hydraulic Excavators (HYEX) that dig into the side of the mountain and pulls out dirt and huge boulders. The unit also has its own dump trucks to transport the rocks and dirt to the Rock Crusher.
The rocks and dirt are then dumped into the hopper. The hopper then transports the rocks by conveyor belt to the crushing chamber. Inside the crushing chamber the rocks and dirt get pulverized by tons of force into smaller rocks and also create leftover debris that is like powdery sand.
The finished product can be used for different purposes during the operation such as roadways, building foundations, Forward Operating Base improvements, pathways, barrier fillings and for a helipad landing site. The crushed rocks are scheduled to be used on approximate 8-miles of combined road projects at NTC.
Estrada adds, "Many people do not know what type of unit we are or what we do, but everyone needs rocks in some way or another. We crush rocks! That's what we do!"
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This work, Arizona's quarry platoon crushes Sand Castle 2009 goal, by SFC Rauel Tirado, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.