October 2, 2008

180th Engineer Company ready to mobilize

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

A Soldier of the 180th Engineer Company guides an excavator onto a flat-bed trailer during an exercise. The 180th Engineers have been pre-mobilizing at Fort Pickett for their upcoming deployment to Iraq. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va.— Approximately 160 Virginia National Guard Soldiers of the Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company have finished up their pre-mobilization training here in preparation for their upcoming deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Soldiers, who are expected to reach their mobilization site in Wisconsin in early October and have boots on the ground in Iraq by December, have been training at Fort Pickett for about 50 days. The engineers have been focusing on training that will be valuable to the Soldiers when overseas.

“We’ve got a diverse mission set over there,” said Capt. Edward Lewis, company commander. “Engineers are asked to do just about anything and everything.”

During the days at Fort Pickett the engineers trained on not only their Soldier skills, but their specific engineer skills as well. They certified and re-certified many Soldiers in Combat Life Saver skills. CLS, a skill-set somewhere between basic first-aid and a combat medic, has been proven effective in keeping Soldiers alive in combat zones.

The Engineers of the 180th have also been sharpening the skills needed to conduct the jobs they will be performing while in country. They have been conducting movements in simulated combat environments, maintaining job site security, earth moving and general construction missions in urban environments and rural terrain, and hasty road repair operations.

A Soldier provides security from the back of a Humvee while the 180th Engineer Company conducts training at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Once in Iraq, the primary mission for the unit is expected to be providing engineer support to coalition forces operating in Iraq. This should include road construction and repair, route maintenance, and force protection. The Soldiers have been training on the equipment they expect they will be using in Iraq to maintain proficiency in their roles such as bulldozers, cranes, excavators, graders, scrapers, and loaders.

“[We] look forward to working close with the Iraqi Army as well as joining with [the] Air Force and the RED HORSE,” said Lewis. “After 50 days of training, I feel confident in my people at this stage…I think we’re sitting in good shape for when we get over there.”

The 180th Engineers is comprised of Soldiers from all over the state, including: Powhatan, Hampton Roads, Southwest Virginia, Richmond/Petersburg, Northern Virginia, Blackstone, Farmville and Lynchburg.

 A departure ceremony for the unit will be held at Powhatan High School Oct. 13.

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