July 6, 2007

Powhatan Soldiers receive training, give back to community

By Staff Sgt. A.J. Coyne
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

A Soldier from the 180th Horizontal Construction Company conducts earth moving operations in Powhatan, Va. Soldiers from the unit were not only conducting annual training from June 11-23, but they were also clearing land for the expansion of a local park. (Photo by Staff Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs.)

POWHATAN, Va. – Soldiers in a Virginia National Guard engineering unit had the opportunity to both improve their Soldiers skills and give something back to their local community during annual training this summer.

The 180th Horizontal Construction Company in Powhatan conducted earth moving operations June 11-23. The training was conducted at Fighting Creek Park, just a few hundred feet from the unit’s armory. While it provided Soldiers with valuable experience operating engineer equipment, it also cleared the land for the city of Powhatan to eventually construct four softball fields at the park.

The unit’s annual training mission was to remove all growth from the land and then to level the area into flat ground. The training saved the county at least $400,000 and helped strengthen the bond between the local community and local citizen Soldiers.

“This is a great opportunity,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Timberlake. “The training value is unbelievable.”

The unit conducted operations around the clock, with four shifts a day. Each Soldier conducted two shifts a day on the heavy equipment, which gave them valuable experience during both daylight hours and at night.

 

Sgt. Andrew Gough conducts earth moving operations June 20 in Powhatan. (Photo by Staff Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virgnia Guard Public Affairs)

 

A tactical operations center was set up near the site with communications capability and status reports on the mission.

“We tried to make it as close to theater as possible,” said Capt. Eddie Lewis, commander of the 180th. “The location allowed us to use the armory as a combat outpost and simulate conditions close to what we experienced during OIF.”

Soldiers had the opportunity to practice different earth moving techniques using a large portion of their equipment, which included eight dozers, three graders, two scoop loaders, two 20-ton dump trucks, three rollers and two hydraulic excavator.

But not only did the Soldiers get a workout, the equipment did as well.

“This is a great opportunity to use the equipment and identify any problems with it,” Lewis said. “Throughout this exercise we’ve been able to identify many strengths and weaknesses with all of our equipment.”

The training was great because it not only gives something back to the community but it also fully supports the unit’s mission essential task list, according to Lewis.

It was the second phase of a three-phase operation involving the park and the 180th HCC. In 2001, the unit helped level ground so that soccer fields could be constructed. In 2010, the plan is for the Soldiers to help lay the groundwork for a future football field.

“The community has always been receptive and supportive of the Guard,” Lewis explained. “We’re only going to get out of the community what we put into it.”

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