May 9, 2004
189th Engineer Company gets new vehicles
Staff Sgt. Tammy Spence
BLACKSTONE, Va. – The 189th Engineer Company located in Big Stone Gap, Virginia received 56 M1977A2 Common Bridge Transporter Trucks. These vehicles are primarily designed for army bridging and can carry any bridging system the Army has. When not carrying the bridging system, the vehicle can be used for other transportation needs.
In a presentation ceremony held on April 8, 2004 at Fort Pickett, Va. 2nd Lt Joseph G. Smith the commanding officer of the189th says, “This is really awesome. I have been in Transportation for four years and am very familiar with these vehicles.” Smith stated that the mission of the 189th is a multi-role bridge company. It has been a land company up to this point but now with the new equipment the Soldiers can fulfill their role as also being a water bridge company because they have this new equipment. He also stated that Paul R. Pieragostini of Oshkosh Manufacturing said this is unusual because heavy equipment goes to the battalion or brigade level and not to a company level so this is a first. Even so Smith is excited and happy because he says, “my Soldiers finally have the best equipment.”
Pieragostini is the manager for government marketing for Oshkosh from which the vehicles were purchased. Pieragostini said that, “Oshkosh is the leader in heavy truck manufacturing and has been making equipment since 1917. They began providing vehicles for the military during World War II.” He also is in the military. He holds the rank of Captain in the Reserve Infantry Unit, 1338 Regiment 85th Division located in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
Also with Pieragostini was Lt. Col. Lisa Kilpatrick from the Army Acquisition Command, Combat Support Combat Service Support located in Warren Michigan. Kilpatrick coordinates between the government and civil industry for providing vehicles for the military. She and her team study tactical wheel vehicles and give the manufacturers recommendations for new equipment entering the Army inventory. She says most importantly is that they “get field equipment to the armed services”. The 189th is a prime example. With this new equipment they can continue on with their mission.
But it is not just a matter of having a presentation ceremony, handing these soldiers the keys to the equipment and leaving them to figure out how to operate these transporters, pontoons, boats on their own. According to Maj. Steven Brewer, Force Integration and Readiness Office for the Virginia Army National Guard the equipment operators received 40 hours of instruction and equipment maintainers received 80 hours of instruction on this equipment. The training, known as New Equipment Training or “NET” was conducted by civilian contractors provided by the US Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command. The NET program teaches these soldiers every aspect of the operation and maintenance of the transporter, boat, and pontoon system.
The training includes operating the equipment under the same conditions that would be experienced in a real situation. The soldiers of the 189th used the engineer bridge site at Ft. Pickett to accomplish that. Under the supervision of the NET trainers these engineers used transporters to launch pontoons into the lake and then used the bridge boats to maneuver the pontoons into their proper place. After successfully launching and maneuvering the pontoons into place, the bridge boats where used to return the pontoons to the shore line where the transported was used to recover them from the lake.
As the 189th Engineer Company was on the leading edge of training with new equipment it was also on the leading edge of supporting the State Partnership Program or SPP. According to Maj. Neal Edmonds, the Virginia National Guard State Partnership Coordinator, the SPP establishes ties between the United States and other countries around the World through the National Guard. Virginia's SPP partner is the country of Tajikistan and is located in central Asia. Maj. Gen. Ramil Nadyrov, the defense minister of Tajikistan, was visiting Ft. Pickett while the 189th engineers were training on their new equipment. Gen. Nadyrov took advantage of the opportunity to see the latest in bridging technology as well as spend time talking with some of the soldiers.
Without a doubt the 189th Engineer Company has been busy the past couple of years. The Soldiers of the 189th Engineer Company were ordered to active federal service in January 2003 to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. They traveled to Ft. Eustis, Va. where they were validated for overseas deployment. The rapid events of the war meant there unit was not needed in Iraq and the soldiers were released from active federal service in June 2003. Later in the year some soldiers of the 189th were transferred to the 276th Engineer Battalion when it was ordered to active federal service. And now the unit is undergoing intensive training with the latest bridging equipment in the Army inventory. The soldiers of the 189th Engineer Company continue in the best tradition of “TEAM VIRGINIA” of rising to each challenge and meeting each requirement.