FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. – Seeing your accomplishments can bring you a sense of joy and pride. One U.S. Army Reserve unit relives those achievements almost every year they attend their annual training.
The 674th Engineer Detachment (Asphalt) has provided civic improvements at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., as part of Castle Installation Related Construction five of the past seven years and they are back again this year.
“It’s pretty neat to see your work when you come back, especially these big projects that really make a difference on post,” said Spc. Matthew Brown, 674th Engineer Detachment (Asphalt) heavy construction equipment operator, from Alburg, Vermont. “It seems like we’re able to contribute a little bit and help everyone out.”
While seeing the work they’ve done is exciting for the unit, they also have the shock of seeing the damage from other improvements.
“Actually it’s ironic, most of the stuff we’ve done has been torn up and had pipelines put through the middle so we’re going back through and capping them again,” said Cpl. John Benway, 674th Engineer Detachment (Asphalt) heavy construction equipment operator and site foreman from Jay, New York.
While it is bittersweet for the 674th to see the work they’ve done torn up for other improvements, they have seen the growth of the base through their projects.
“It’s good to see the improvement. When we first came here it was only about 25 percent paved and now it’s about 75 percent paved on cantonment,” said Benway. “We’ve done most of the major projects.”
This year from Aug. 6 to 19, the unit is at Fort Hunter Liggett removing sidewalks to blend the road and parking lots for two bus stops, assisting in recapping the Sam Jones culvert and repaving a parking lot.
“We’re just here to improve the post,” said Brown. “We’ve had other projects here, such as we paved the headquarters parking lot, Sulfur Springs Road, the commissary parking lot and over by the daycare. Seems like they like us so we keep coming back.”
While the 674th Eng. Det. Is responsible for asphalt operations, only four Soldiers in the unit are asphalt and concrete specialist. Most of the unit’s Soldiers are trained as heavy equipment operators. While this may seem counter-productive, members of the unit find it works well.
“It’s almost like a free re-class,” said Brown. “We end up doing the [asphalt and concrete specialist’s] job and it’s the same for them, they get to run some of the heavy equipment too.”
Not only is it helpful in learning each other’s job, but having both military occupational specialties also helps during missions.
“Most of the time when we do prep work, what it comes down to is heavy equipment and their expertise comes into play when the asphalt gets here,” said Brown. “So, we are able to trade off and bounce ideas off each other based on the training we’ve received.”
While working together and bouncing ideas off each other is vital, Benway would like the Soldiers to also come out of this training with more passion for their MOS.
I hope they actually enjoy it enough to want to stick with the MOS,” he said. “It’s a dying breed in the Army. I hope they actually see the benefit in it and the improvements that can be made in other areas other than just here. There’s an awful lot of road the Army owns and there’s a lot of opportunities to improve other posts besides here.”
While Benway wants the Soldiers to leave with that passion, Brown thinks it came with the Soldiers to Fort Hunter Liggett.
“Believe it or not, we actually have fun paving. We make it as enjoyable as possible. It keeps us tight,” he said. “This is what we look forward to throughout the year: coming out here and having fun doing our job. I think it’s pretty valued among the troops.”