Story and photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego
Special to GUIDON
The U.S. Army prides itself on its ability to “train as you fight.” On the 21st-century battlefield, this means facing new challenges head-on by employing all available resources. For the Army Reserve, success means supporting and being supported by its brothers and sisters in arms, from the other Army components to the Marine Corps and other branches. At Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, for River Assault 2018, the Army Reserve Soldiers of the 420th Engineer Brigade find camaraderie with all of the above.
“The future of our services are joint,” said Command Sgt. Major Ted Copeland, the Command Sergeant Major of the Army Reserve. “Any one service can’t do it by themselves, so we have to be together and do it. Working together now, especially at the unit level, not up at the staff level, is perfect.”
From July 15 through Saturday, these Reserve engineers are joined by counterparts from the regular Army, the National Guard, and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve for two weeks of high-intensity training in the sweltering heat of an Arkansas summer. Their mission: complete a real-time wet gap crossing by building a bridge across the Arkansas River.
“My team’s role is to provide the initial slip improvement and to provide 15 bays to complete that enclosure of the Arkansas River,” said Staff Sgt. Kyle Dyer, training NCO for the 739th Multi Role Bridge Company. “There’s four units total that’ll come together with their bridge pieces to complete the full enclosure. It’s a 320- to 400-meter gap, so it’ll take anywhere from 42 to 52 pieces of bridges, IRBs and ramps to complete that enclosure. So, four units will come together, build their portion of it, and then they will swing into place, completing the bridge in its entirety.”
An IRB is an Improved Ribbon Bridge, the modern floating bridge system designed to provide ground forces with the capability to transport heavy military equipment and troops over rivers. This month, three bridge companies are coming from the Army and one from the Marine Corps.
“It’s very fulfilling to be a part of this mission,” Dyer said. “Being able to train jointly allows us to see how they perform their bridging. We bridge the same, but we have different aspects in how we do it. So, it allows us to learn jointly in an osmosis-type way.”
Leading up to this culminating exercise is a series of missions testing both capabilities and cooperation. One such challenge was a helocast drop, bringing together 420th Engineer troops with regular Army Sappers and dive teams.
“For us, the support for the Reserve and the National Guard is extremely important,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jared Gay, a Sapper Engineer with the 169th Engineer Battalion and subject matter expert for the Sapper Leader Course out of Fort Leonard Wood. “Our Aviation unit is Reserve, and they fly for us three times a week. We’d just like to give back to them by assisting them down here with the River Assault.”
Contributing to the fight are members of the Kentucky Army National Guard, augmenting both the main engineer effort and support elements.
“This is my first (annual training); I like it,” said Pfc. Elijah Moss-Mills, a bridge crew engineer with the 2061st Multi Role Bridge Company, Kentucky Army National Guard. “It’s pretty cool working with other services, other branches. Everybody’s doing different things and you get to hear about different things that happen in the different units.”
In addition to inter-service support, River Assault gives these troops the opportunity to network for career advancement as engineers.
“We’re happy to be here,” Gay said. “We just want to get as many of these Soldiers to understand what the Sapper Leader Course is and get them to attend.”
By sharing new methods of mission success and bridging the gap between the services, these Reserve troops are not only pressing forward, but supporting joint strength, as well.
“Most of our support does come from the National Guard/Reserve elements,” Gay said. “So it’s nice to bring them into the fight.”
(Editor’s note: Griego is with the 211th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)