Texas guard engineers poised to make history on Middle East deployment

Story by: Capt. Maria Mengrone

Posted: Aug. 8, 2016
 

The 176th Engineer Brigade Commander, Colonel Charles M. Schoening and Command Sergeant Major Anthony Simms furl the brigade colors in preparation for deployment during the mobilization ceremony held for the brigade headquarters at Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, June 4, 2016. The 176th Engineer Brigade headquarters boarded a flight in late July and set off on an historic mission to the Middle East to provide engineer support and capabilities to maneuver units across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (Photo by U.S. National Guard Capt. Maria Mengrone)
The 176th Engineer Brigade Commander, Colonel Charles M. Schoening and Command Sergeant Major Anthony Simms furl the brigade colors in preparation for deployment during the mobilization ceremony held for the brigade headquarters at Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, June 4, 2016. The 176th Engineer Brigade headquarters boarded a flight in late July and set off on an historic mission to the Middle East to provide engineer support and capabilities to maneuver units across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (Photo by U.S. National Guard Capt. Maria Mengrone)

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – A group of 135 Texas Army National Soldiers of the 176th Engineer Brigade headquarters boarded a flight in late July and set off on an historic mission to the Middle East to provide engineer support and capabilities to maneuver units across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

“It’s the first time that an engineer brigade headquarters has had this type of mission within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility,” said 176th Engineer Brigade Commander, Col. Charles M. Schoening a resident of Georgetown, Texas.

“We have had other engineer brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan other times but they have had different types of missions,” said Schoening. “This mission will be a pure engineer brigade headquarters mission where we will be overseeing and providing command and control for specific engineer missions throughout the theater.”

The vast region that encompasses the U.S. Central Command spans four million square miles and includes some 18 nations.

“Our greatest challenge will be movement throughout the theater; how do we get to those places where the work needs to be done with our manpower and our equipment,” said Schoening.

The brigade headquarters will track movement of approximately 1,700 Soldiers from a variety of Active Duty, National Guard and Army Reserve engineer elements.

Engineer forces under operational control of the 176th Engineer Brigade are set to provide design and survey, horizontal and vertical construction, fixed bridging, general combat engineer capabilities and heavy dive team under water inspections.

“Our mission is so diverse and covers such a wide variety of sovereign countries, with each having its own set of rules, it will require us to stay on top of it and we have a process that will ensure we get to where we need to go,” said Schoening.

The various skill sets of engineer Soldiers will be put to the test during the projected nine-month deployment.

“The mission we have is exactly the mission we have been preparing for; this is what an engineer brigade headquarters does,” said Schoening.

The brigade has been preparing for this type of mission since its completion of the III Corps Warfighter Exercise 13-2 in February 2015.

A month leading up to mobilization the brigade headquarters spent three-weeks conducting pre-mobilization training at Camp Swift, Texas, May 2016, that focused on warrior tasks and engineer specific staff training.

Most recently, the 176th Engineer Brigade wrapped up mobilization training with a culminating mission readiness exercise at Fort Bliss, in July 2016, in which the brigade was successfully validated for deployment.

“I want the Soldiers to know that we are a highly trained force that is capable of successfully completing every task within our mission,” said Schoening.

Many brigade Soldiers are eager to put their training into action.

“I’m ready to deal with the challenges,” said Sgt. Torrance Bowman, 23, technical engineer, 176th Engineer Brigade, a native of DeBerry, Texas. “I am excited to have the opportunity to travel and conduct surveys at potential construction sites and just do my job.”