Texan, Midwestern engineers deploy to Middle East

Story by: Adam Holguin

Posted on: Aug. 17, 2016

Photo By Adam Holguin | Soldiers assigned to the 389th Engineer Company and the 176th Engineer Brigade are led in prayer during the farewell brief at the Silas L. Copeland Airfield Control Group moments before boarding their flight to the Middle East July 29.
Photo By Adam Holguin | Soldiers assigned to the 389th Engineer Company and the 176th Engineer Brigade are led in prayer during the farewell brief at the Silas L. Copeland Airfield Control Group moments before boarding their flight to the Middle East July 29.

The 389th Engineer Company, a U.S. Army Reserve unit based out of Burlington, Iowa, and the 176th Engineer Brigade, a Texas Army National Guard Unit from Grand Prairie, departed the Silas L. Copeland Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group en route to a mission in the U.S. Central Command Area of Operations July 29.

The vertical engineers of the 389th will complete missions throughout the area of operations, and the scope and size will dictate which assets are utilized, something unit officials have prepared for and are expecting.

“We will have teams as small as team level elements go out and complete missions in different locations,” said Capt. David Jacobs, commander, 389th Eng. Co. “We were really particular in picking our leadership down to the squad and team leader level to have someone strong that we could trust to be out there with the Soldiers and take care of stuff on their own.”

The units each completed an array of training at their respective home stations as well as a month of preparation at Fort Bliss, with the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.

“Training out at McGregor Range helped give us a lot of work on our tactical skills and convoy skills. It was good to be out here and get that experience before we get ready to deploy,” Jacobs said. “There are a lot more resources down here as far as ability … it was a lot easier here to get any kind of training that we wanted.”

For Spc. David Rasmussen, plumber, 389th Eng. Co., who is deploying for the first time, the training was integral in preparing for this mission by not only improve soldiering skills, but also building unit cohesion.

“I feel more confident after this training” Rasmussen said. “I feel closer to my unit now, especially my squad and platoon … we think and act together and it’s not even a hesitation anymore, we just go and do it.”

While the 476th Eng. Bde. departed on the same flight, their mission will be different. The Lone Star State engineers will provide the brigade-level element to all engineers in U.S. Central Command.

“The mission we have is to serve as the theater engineer brigade for central command,” said Col. Charles Schoening, brigade commander, 176th Eng. Bde. “We will be managing most of the down trace engineering capabilities within the area of operations.”

Identifying what resources are needed for a given mission and identifying which elements get dispatched to complete the mission is the primary focus of the 176th Eng. Bde.

“Managing materials, managing men, managing equipment, managing expertise,” said 1st Lt. Bobby Maphies, commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 176th Eng. Bde. “So that we send the right people to the right location for the right mission.”

The brigade also completed training and incorporated their duties into the fold.

“(What) really allowed us to hone our skills was our mission readiness exercise … we were provided the opportunity through different scenarios designed to run our staff through different basic injects and scenarios that we are going to see while we are in country,” Schoening said.

Having prepared in the desert climate on the training grounds of Fort Bliss for more than a month, the engineers of the 389th and the 176th are prepared for the environment and mission workload that awaits them in U.S. Central Command.

“Whatever missions are ahead of us, I feel like we will accomplish them no problem,” Rasmussen said. “We are good to go and we are ready to rock.”

“We are well prepared, well trained and we are really looking forward to getting started on this mission,” Schoening said.