Soldiers from Company A, 554th Engineer Battalion, are repairing two rubber-mulch physical training areas, providing a valuable training opportunity.
Capt. Bruce Leuthold, Company A commander and the project’s officer-in-charge, said training areas for the 31st and 35th Engr. Bns. are being restored using repurposed would-be waste products.
“We’re filling in new rubber chips to these two pits, taking all the (older) chips and recycling, reusing everything and spreading it out,” he said. “There is some unusable stuff that we’re going to have to take to solid waste, but it’s kind of minimal. We’re probably able to capture about 75 percent of the existing materials.”
Leuthold said the two and a half acres of torn-tire turf in the training areas – commonly referred to as pits – were in heavy need of maintenance.
“The PT pits were severely degraded after years of continued use,” he said. “The fabric was tearing and rubber-chip mulch reduced, which created potential tripping hazards and shallow mulched locations in the pits.”
Capt. Shawn Tham, 31st Engr. Bn. logistics officer, commented on the sheer scale and speed of the project.
“The mulch, fabric and anchor pins – 21,000 anchor pins, 22 rolls of 14-by-140 foot fabric – they’re completing it faster than expected,” he said.
Tham assisted in the project’s implementation and observed the work onsite. He said training companies use the pits for multiple practice maneuvers, including rifle marksmanship and mine detection.
“They also practice their Night Infiltration Course crawl, they do their combatives, their morning PT on this and any corrective training,” he said. “In (Advanced Individual Training) … they will sometimes mine detect this pit for any metal, because during reception and integration, a lot of times, pins and anything that is on the trainees when they get here, they do get lost because they’re in a rush.”
Tham estimates more than 17,000 Soldiers have been trained on the pits since they were first erected about six years ago.
“Overall, our battalion produces about 2,500 Soldiers a year,” he said. “So, given that they’re building this new pit, you can imagine just the number of (combat engineers) and (bridge crewmembers) that are going to be produced in this battalion that will go through this.”
The construction itself proved to be a valuable training opportunity for the Soldiers as well, according to leadership from the battalions.
“It’s just increasing overall safety, saving the Army money, getting good training for our guys when it comes to designs, project management plans – there are a lot of good things that came of this,” Leuthold said. “Our team takes pride in being good stewards of limited resources, increasing safety for our facilities and building lasting partnerships.”
Charlie Neel, Directorate of Public Works, Environmental Division chief, said the project was done in accordance with all applicable regulations and laws.
“There are no chemicals, no waste,” he said. “Absolutely, they’re in environmental compliance.”
Leuthold said he expects his company to wrap up construction by Sept. 14.