When power goes off, Army linemen are on Print E-mail
Thursday, 13 April 2017
Story by Marti Yoshida
Public Affairs Office

U.S. Army Soldiers fill many roles in service to the nation in a variety of career fields.

There is one group of Army specialists who dangle from dozens of feet off the ground, restore power during severe storms and handle wires that carry thousands of volts of electricity.

These Soldiers are U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Prime Power production specialists with the 249th Engineer Battalion, who have earned their lineman skill identifier at the U.S. Army Prime Power School, Fort Leonard Wood.
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A Prime Power production specialist climbs a power pole to help the class during the final project of constructing a power distribution system. Photo courtesy of Prime Power School

Congress signed a resolution April 10, 3013, naming National Lineman Day for April 18. With Tuesday being National Lineman Appreciation Day, it is appropriate to recognize these service men and women who work in extreme conditions to bring power to Army missions.

“I chose to become a Prime Power production specialist when my neighbor talked to me about it while I was stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia,” Staff Sgt. Michael Elliott, Power Line Distribution Course-U4 instructor, said. “I used to do electrical work and never imagined that I would be able to further my interest in the electrical field while serving in the Army.”

Each year, select noncommissioned officers earn their lineman skill identifier of U4 by adding an additional 10 weeks to their yearlong training program.

The PLDC course was first offered on post in January 2015, making the Prime Power School the Army’s training institute for medium voltage power production and distribution.

“The Power Line Distribution Couse includes everything from climbing a wood pole to operating aerial bucket trucks,” Elliott said. “During the last two weeks of the course, students are given the specifications to construct a power distribution system.”

Elliott said while the final capstone project is led entirely by students, instructors are there to ensure safety and provide guidance.

The course prepares students to deploy throughout the world.

In wartime, Army personnel are responsible for supporting Prime Power program missions. “Knowing the Soldiers I have trained will someday help, either here in the United States or overseas, is the most rewarding aspect of my job,” Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Ecker, PLDC-U4 senior instructor, said.

Ecker admits that while he did not deploy to Iraq as a lineman, his skills came in handy when he had to oversee the construction of an overhead distribution system.

In peacetime, skills are maintained through training exercises, emergency deployments for disaster relief efforts, special purpose deployments and in support of the directors of public works at home and abroad.

According to Elliott, his knowledge was significant after Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast in late October 2012.

“We installed a power plant at a fuel depot in response to Hurricane Sandy,” Elliott said. “This aided in the relief of the fuel shortage by allowing the depot to pump the needed fuel and fill its delivery trucks.”

“It is very meaningful to see the results of the missions we accomplish,” he added.

For more information about the U.S. Army Prime Power School, visit www.usace.army.mil/Prime-Power-School/.