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    Engineer Battalion Gives Back to Rural Community

    Bruce, Miss. – Through the scorching Mississippi summer heat and the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, more than 140 Soldiers of the 223rd Engineer Battalion are spending their annual training building a 1.3–mile walking trail for the rural community of Bruce, Miss.
    Home to just under 3,000 citizens and the 289th Engineer Company, 223rd Engineer Battalion, Bruce is located 40 miles northeast of Grenada, Miss., at the intersection of state highway 9 and 32.
    “The planning for this project started back in December of last year and January of this year,” said 1st Lt. Fred Nichols, 858th Engineer Company (Horizontal) executive officer and project officer-in-charge.
    Nichols said this project would be a challenge for the 289th Engineer Company (Vertical) because they have only one platoon of horizontal engineers – heavy construction equipment operators – and significantly less equipment needed to efficiently finish the mission. The 858th Engineer Company (Horizontal), predominantly comprised of construction equipment operators, was called in to complete the project with support from other companies within the battalion.
    “The brigade surveying team was out here July 17 and then my guys were out here for drill status starting the 18th,” said Nichols.
    The unit began transitioning into its annual training period following drill, separating into three rotations, each lasting around two weeks.
    “We are now currently in the first week of the second rotation,” said Nichols. “So it will continue on from here another three and a half weeks and the completion date is projected to be August 29.”
    Nichols said that for the past few years their annual trainings have been pretty active, but this year’s annual training is different because they are not on Camp McCain, Camp Shelby, or at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin. Instead, they get to train and learn while giving back to the local community.
    This annual training is a change of pace for the unit, said Spc. John Bray, an engineer with the 858th EN CO. He said that while it allows new operators to train with some of the larger pieces of equipment, they have to make sure it is done right for the citizens of Bruce, who will eventually use the track.
    “For me, I learn a lot better with hands-on training; and it really gets you used to the feeling of the equipment,” said Bray. “You can learn in a book and then you get out in the equipment and it’s completely different. It’s all about feeling what you are doing.”
    “This our chance to really get out and learn the most because this is our biggest project of the year,” he added. “When we get out here and work, it really lets [new operators] reinforce what they learn in the classroom, lets them come out to try it. When they mess up, that’s ok because it’s just learning. It just really builds on what they can do.”
    Bray, a native of Vardaman, Miss., just a few miles southeast of Bruce; said he had family in town who would enjoy using the new track.
    “It feels really good to give back to where I am from,” he said.
    The walking track would not be possible without help from the 223rd Engineer Battalion, said Bruce Mayor Rudy Pope, who’s been serving in the position for the past seven years.
    “When the Mississippi National Guard started bringing in the large equipment you could feel the excitement building in the city of Bruce,” said Pope
    “We have been wanting this thing for a while – I would say five years,” he said. “If we had gotten it done through a private engineering group it would be about $400,000,” said Pope. “That’s a lot of money. We could have probably gotten a few grants here and there, but never would we have been able to get that much money in a grant at one time.”
    The mayor said he has enjoyed meeting and working with some of the leadership from the 223rd Engineer Battalion and now knows who to call upon for help in the event of an emergency.
    “This project has been so easy and beneficial for the city of Bruce and its citizens that we have already reached out again for possible future projects around the city,” said Pope.



    Date Taken: 08.04.2020
    Date Posted: 08.13.2020 17:43
    Story ID: 375845
    Location: BRUCE, MS, US 

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