May 19 , 2010

Fort Pickett’s only Engineer Platoon learns, grows, crushes rock

By Capt. Matt Nowak
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — The 157th Engineer Platoon (Quarry Detachment) conducted its annual training at Fort Pickett, May 9-19 to work on a variety of engineer specific tasks.

 

Soldiers from the Fort Pickett-based 157th Engineer Platoon (Quarry Detachment) learn proper chainsaw safety and usage as part of their annual training May 14 at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia Army Guard Public Affairs) Click HERE to see more photos of the training.

The Fort Pickett-based platoon has only been in existence since 2006 but is making strides in its growth, with both manpower and its skill sets.

Many of the Soldiers from the platoon deployed as part of the 180th Engineers to Iraq in 2009. They are now getting reintegrated with the unit and will continue their military educational requirements.

“Our primary mission is to provide crushed stone for MTC (Maneuver Training Center). If we are ever in theater, then we would provide such materials to our area of operations and higher command,” said platoon leader 1st Lt. Michael Schaeffer. “We are currently trying to build on basic soldiering skills and engineer skills.”

The unit ultimately works for the MTC commander, Col. Tom Wilkinson, but will get tasks from the installation’s Department of Public Works. Like many units in the Virginia Guard, the 157th can be called into state active duty and be deployed overseas.

The platoon’s two primary jobs are 21E (Heavy Construction Equipment Operator) and 21G (Quarry Specialist).

“Filling the unit has been a challenge in itself,” Schaeffer said. “With no maintenance attached organically to the unit, my main focus has been on selecting two or three current Soldiers with working knowledge and expertise in the maintenance arena. I have also tried tying in on the 21B (Combat Engineer) specialty to bring their experience in the big picture. I personally feel that by combining the different specialties, the unit will be better prepared when it comes to facing challenges.”

 

Soldiers from the 157th Engineer Platoon (Quarry Detachment) learn proper chainsaw safety and usage as part of their annual training May 14 at Fort Pickett. Representatives from Fort Pickett’s Fire Department and Forestry Department taught the day-long course. (Photo by Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia Army Guard Public Affairs) Click HERE to see more photos of the training.

For their annual training, Soldiers of the 157th trained on a wide variety of events and had a packed training schedule. They completed weapons qualification, convoy operations, quarry operations, heavy construction equipment operations, basic weapons familiarization, mission briefings, an operations order class, and drivers training.

Included in the list of engineer tasks was conducting a chainsaw familiarization class. The class was taught by Hylton Haynes from the Fort Pickett Forestry Department and Edwin Foster from the Fort Pickett Fire Department. The full-day class provided the Soldiers with basic knowledge of chainsaw use with an emphasis on safety. The purpose is to add to their capabilities for working on Fort Pickett and potential state active duty missions, similar to what the 276th Engineer Battalion did during Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

As their annual training came to its final days the 157th Soldiers were able to get a day performing their primary mission of operating heavy equipment and quarry operations. Their annual training was capped off with close quarters marksmanship at the urban assault course.

Every Soldier that attended will follow on and attend the Combat Lifesaver Course at Virginia’s 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute.

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