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Development of training areas for a Multirole Bridge Company.

In Field Manual 7-0, Training for Full Spectrum Operations, General Martin E. Dempsey stated, "Training has to be credible, relevant, and rigorous to make the scrimmage as hard as the game." (1) To make this a reality, units must have access to training areas that support their mission-essential task list to prepare for real-world missions. Many Army units face this challenge due to relocations caused by base realignment and closure actions and the buildup of brigade combat teams, which has overwhelmed limited training resources. Other units face the challenge because of special requirements associated with their mission-essential task list.

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Facing Challenges

The 502d Multirole Bridge Company (MRBC) is one of five MRBCs in the Regular Army. The unit relocated from Hanau, Germany, to Fort Knox, Kentucky, in 2008. Following the move, the unit deployed to Afghanistan to support Operation Enduring Freedom. The 502d MRBC was the first bridging company in theater and established the theater bridging infrastructure by conducting multiple bridging and rafting operations across Afghanistan. Following its redeployment in 2010, the unit reestablished its extensive training program, focusing on maintaining individual and collective gap-crossing training proficiencies

MRBCs are responsible for wet and dry gap crossings and have the equipment to complete these tasks, including dry support and improved ribbon bridges and bridge erection boats. The bridge crewmembers of an MRBC are responsible for the construction and dismantling of fixed bridges, which are semipermanent structures that provide lines of communication for units on the ground. The MRBC must be proficient on fixed bridges such as the Mabey-Johnson [R], Acrow [R], medium girder, and Bailey bridges. Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, is currently the only installation able to support training on all mission-essential tasks of an MRBC, which include installing, anchoring, and inspecting float and fixed bridges.

Identifying Needs

When the 502d MRBC returned from Afghanistan, it became essential to establish training locations at Fort Knox. To meet this requirement, the 19th Engineer Battalion began coordinating with the Fort Knox Directorates of Public Works and Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security and the post range division to develop wet and dry gap training sites. The search for training locations at Fort Knox came at an ideal time since the U.S. Army Armor School had begun moving from the installation to Fort Benning, Georgia, leaving numerous areas available

Identifying a Wet Gap Training Site

The search for a wet gap training site identified an old boat slip (known as Pilcher's Landing) along the Ohio River. None of the organizations on Fort Knox had used the site for decades, and the slip would require a large amount of work to make it a sustainable training location. Fortunately, the 19th Engineer Battalion also has the 15th Engineer Company (Horizontal) and the 72d Survey and Design Detachment. The battalion recognized that the construction of a new boat slip was an opportunity for highquality, multifunctional training and a chance to develop a training area specifically designed to fit the needs of the 502d MRBC. The site would include an area large enough for combat bridge transporters to maneuver and a slip that could sustain constant abuse from the loading and unloading of bridge erection boats and the launching of improved ribbon bridge bays. The design chosen included the use of ArmorFlex[R] mats and geotextiles, demonstrating the desire of the 19th Engineer Battalion and Fort Knox to create a sustainable training area. Construction began in August 2011 with the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District.

Identifying a Dry Gap Training Site

The Fort Knox range division also recommended a location for dry gap operations training. The site was originally part of an armor crewman training area. It required a significant amount of work before it would meet the commander's intent, which included constructing a site that could handle the deployment of dry support bridges of various lengths and heights. The 19th Engineer battalion construction management and reconnaissance sections worked with the range division to develop a design that would meet this intent. The design would also be able to handle other fixed bridges, such as the medium girder and Bailey bridges. The result of the plan was a site valued at more than $400,000 and capable of deploying four dry support bridges simultaneously. Construction by contractors began in January 2012.

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The 19th Engineer Battalion, working with agencies on Fort Knox, has established world-class bridge training areas for Regular Army and Reserve Component MRBCs. The training areas will help bridging companies prepare for future missions. The 19th Engineer Battalion is now better prepared to complete assigned missions due to the efforts it took to design, build, and coordinate the development of bridging training facilities on Fort Knox.

Reference:

(1.) Field Manual 7-0, Training for Full Spectrum Operations, 12 December 2008.

By Captain Russell F. Calloway

Captain Calloway graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. He was the executive officer of the 502d MRBC and is now attending the Engineer Captains Career Course at Fort Leonard Wood.
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Author:Calloway, Russell F.
Publication:Engineer: The Professional Bulletin for Army Engineers
Geographic Code:1U6KY
Date:May 1, 2012
Words:850
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