HOHENFELS, Germany -- The second wave of Soldiers from the 133rd Engineer Battalion boarded a plane in Boston, August, 1 en route to the Joint Multinational Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany to participate in one of several sessions of training in preparation for an upcoming deployment to Iraq in early 2010.
On the ground training in Germany from the 133rd Engineer Battalion are Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Gardiner, the 136th Engineer Company from Lewiston and Skowhegan, the 262nd Engineer Company from Westbrook and Belfast, the 1035th Survey and Design Company, Gardiner and the Forward Support Company, Portland.
The companies have merged to form Task Force Construction and Task Force Support, simulating the structure and form the Battalion will take in a combat environment while deployed to Iraq. Task Force Construction is working on several projects at Hohenfels; two are horizontal construction projects and two are vertical construction projects.
The "horizontal" project, manned by Soldiers of the 262nd, consists of improving two Improvised Explosive Device roads. The IED roads are used to train coalition forces from around the world in convoy security operations.
Sgt. 1st Class Terry Sprague, non-commissioned officer in charge of the IED west project has years of knowledge to share with the Soldiers of his unit, having served a combat tour in Iraq in 2004 with the 133rd and first joining the Army on active duty in 1971. He says the level of experience is about half of what it was during his first deployment.
"Many of the people I have deployed with before have retired; the average age is about 31 whereas the previous age averaged about 45. The experience level varies with age." Sprague says some of the younger inexperienced Soldiers are getting very good hands on training operating heavy equipment such as graders, bulldozers, rollers, dump trucks and bucket loaders; all which will be used while deployed to Iraq. During the training, young Soldiers are being mentored by more seasoned operators. "I have young Soldiers who have never been on any of this equipment and they are all doing very well." Sprague said.
The "vertical" project, manned by Soldiers of the 136th are along the IED road. The area was built to resemble a small Iraqi village. The Military Operations on Urban Terrain site looks so realistic that several Soldiers who have deployed in the past said that it reminded them of Iraq.
The mission of the 136th is to expand the village and construct three additional buildings. Some buildings have been started by the first wave of Soldiers from the 133rd; others are being constructed from the foundation up.
Staff Sgt. Douglas Chabot, NCOIC of the project said, "Most of our younger Soldiers are laying block for the first time since coming back from school. The blocks are about 20 pounds heavier then back home and have interlocking joints, so there isn't any mortar between the [vertical] joints." Chabot added that even for seasoned block layers it was a challenge to lay the interlocking blocks but everyone worked together and the project is progressing smoothly.
"I've been in since 1985 and this is some of the best training we have ever had just because of the project; it's a great project, you start with nothing and then see the progression, it's nice for Soldiers to see their accomplishment," said Chabot.