Texas-based Engineer Brigades embrace Army Total Force Policy to complete a 17-mile road construction project

Story by: Capt. Maria Mengrone

Posted: August 22, 2015

Courtesy Photo  Soldiers from the 420th Engineer Brigade pose for a photograph while participating in a 25-day roadway construction project spanning 17 miles along the perimeter of the Camp Bowie Training Center in Brownwood from July 6-30, 2015. (Texas National Guard courtesy photo by 111th Engineer Battalion/Released)
Courtesy Photo 
Soldiers from the 420th Engineer Brigade pose for a photograph while participating in a 25-day roadway construction project spanning 17 miles along the perimeter of the Camp Bowie Training Center in Brownwood from July 6-30, 2015. (Texas National Guard courtesy photo by 111th Engineer Battalion/Released)

BROWNWOOD, Texas – Army Engineers from across Texas came together during a 25-day roadway construction project spanning 17 miles along the perimeter of the Camp Bowie Training Center in Brownwood, Texas, from July 6-30, 2015. 

 The multi-component project was planned and led by 111th Engineer Battalion “Roughnecks”, 176th Engineer Brigade, Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG). The multi-component element included active duty soldiers from the 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade based in Fort Hood, Texas and U.S. Army Reserve soldiers from the 980th Engineer Battalion, 420th Engineer Brigade headquartered in Bryan, Texas. 

 While informal, a relationship between the three Texas engineer brigades has existed for some time. Recently, the Army adopted a “Total Force Policy” that encourages regionally aligned units from all components of the U.S. Army Engineer Regiment – Active, National Guard, and Army Reserve - to plan and execute multi-component training in order to maximize resources and gain efficiency. 

 “The project included multi-component Soldiers who had never met before; they planned and resourced this project remotely, months before execution. Elements came together at all levels with little to no friction. It’s been about getting the mission done – expanding engineer collective capability,” said Maj. Matthew D. Calton, 111th Engineer Battalion commander. 

 “It is reassuring to observe the caliber of Officers, Warrant Officers and NCOs that exist within our Engineer Regiment,” said Calton. 

 The range road construction project was divided into three major sections with each assigned to specific component. Horizontal engineer soldiers completed excavations, cut and fill, hauling and borrow site operations, while vertical engineer soldiers focused on round and box culvert installations, and headwall construction. Soldiers with other engineer skill sets were task organized to further the mission.

 “Within each major route section there are critical path sub-tasks,” said Capt. John Veracruz, construction officer, 111th Engineer Battalion. “Among these were improving trafficability of the route by decreasing the grade of two large hill sections, building new sections of road and installing three concrete-cable low-water crossings.”

 At the height of the project, the 111th Engineer Battalion accounted for 646 soldiers with significant representation from four separate engineer battalions (62nd, 111th, 386th, 980th) and elements from 3rd Engineer Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division and the 72nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 72nd Infantry Brigade, 36th Infantry Division Engineer Battalions. 

 “The quality of training is unprecedented, officers are getting training to plan, NCOs are getting training on complex problem solving and soldiers are getting significant equipment training opportunities; it’s rare to have so many diverse components and engineer capabilities working within a multi-phased project,” said Calton. 

 Soldiers from across all components now have a better understanding of how the Army Total Force Policy can be implemented.

 “The support has been fantastic,” said Capt. Jacob Niewold, commander, 68th Engineer Company, 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade. “We don’t usually get this kind of training by staying at Fort Hood.” 

 “I’ve never had an opportunity to work with National Guard but it’s great that we are able to help each other,” said active-duty soldier, Spc. Joshua M. Green, horizontal construction engineer, 68th Engineer Company. “If there was something we couldn’t figure out the guard Soldiers would come out and help and we would help them too.”

 “This is good training, we’re learning our MOS, many of our Soldiers are fresh out of basic training and we are doing a real-world project,” said U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Lucero Rios, interior electrician, 808th Engineer Company, 980th Engineer Battalion, 420th Engineer Brigade, USAR. “We started something here and I would definitely want to come back and see the finished product.”

 For those not familiar with Camp Bowie and its expansive training areas. Camp Bowie covers nearly 9,000 acres with weapons ranges and various training facilities, barracks, administrative areas and a dining facility. Although Camp Bowie has expanded in recent years by adding post infrastructure, barracks, and training facilities, upgrades to the transportation infrastructure were lacking. The construction on Camp Bowie sought to address that need.

 “This project provides emergency access to all training areas, which is something we didn’t have before. It also allows soldier access to all training areas with the finished road serving as a firebreak,” said Lt. Col. Jamey L. Creek, chief of Plans and Operations, Training Center Command, 71st Troop Command, TXARNG. “We train primarily National Guard Soldiers but active-duty, reserve, Marines and a host of other governmental organizations train here too, so everyone will benefit from the improvements.” 

 Resourcing for the project came from multiple Texas National Guard directorates that included the Construction and Facilities Management Office, the Army G-4 and Training Center Garrison Command. The investment in building material and fuel exceeded $700,000. 

 A key component of the project was the planning and synchronization of logistics through scheduled bulk fuel deliveries and three weekly trips to draw rations from Fort Hood, Texas. Additionally, early procurements of field sanitation, equipment repair parts, and prepositioning of building materials facilitated logistical requirements. 

 “The total number of soldiers fed peaked at 646 on day 12 of the 25 day annual training. We had more than 300 pieces of transportation and heavy engineer equipment and fuel consumption topped 50,000 gallons,” said Maj. Jimmy C. Horst, logistical officer, 176th Engineer Brigade, TXARNG. “I believe the greatest reward, from a logistical standpoint, is the success of including all three Army components into one training event.” 

 All Army engineers, regardless of their component, are bonded by a culture of cooperation and collaboration that has grown stronger over the last 14 years of conflict. With the relationships further codified by regional alignment and the Army Total Force Policy, the U.S. Army Engineer Regiment is leading the way. The Camp Bowie Range Road project is a shining example of Army Total Force Policy implementation, and is a snapshot of what is possible when the components work together. 

 “Going forward, if there is a national incident or another training opportunity, those lines of communication have been absolutely tested, they’re in place and they have been validated; we have proven the concept of the Army Total Force Policy,” said Calton. 

 “Essayons!” – Let us try.