A water hazard near Forney Airfield’s flight line has become an opportunity for Fort Leonard Wood engineer units to train on equipment and save time and money at the same time – all while making the airfield safer.
According to 509th Clearance Company Commander David Hoy, the “mutually beneficial project” allows his unit to gain critical experience on their earth-moving equipment while providing a closer location for another unit, Company A, 554th Engineer Battalion, to place clean fill from a separate on-going concrete-removal project being accomplished on post in conjunction with the Missouri National Guard. The clean fill assists Forney Airfield with the removal of a safety hazard due to the presence of birds and the proximity of the water to the flight path – at the same time, saving money that would’ve otherwise been needed to alleviate the hazard.
“Our operators get to build proficiency and support the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence team as well as safety on the airfield,” Hoy said. “Our operators have a high probability of going to a construction unit later in their career. Because of that, we continue to look for ways to challenge them with similar problem sets they will encounter when they join a construction unit, in addition to their combat skills they constantly train on in our clearance company.”
Airport Manager Dave Robinson sees the project as a win for everyone.
“We’ve got Soldiers getting training,” he said. “It’s always a win-win when – on a training installation – we can assist the trainers. We’re all working together and we’re saving money at the same time.”
Hoy said the airfield management team “floated the idea” to him of filling in the water hazard as a training opportunity after the 509th completed a separate foliage-removal project that earned five commendation and achievement medals from garrison command in February (Read that story here).
According to Hoy, the airfield team did the leg work of putting in for an environmental site survey and getting permission to fill in the pond with clean fill. That’s when the 554th Engineers entered the picture – along with more than 1,000 cubic yards of demolished concrete pads from an installation deconstruction initiative across multiple training areas. Dumping the concrete at the airfield cut miles from their original removal plans.
“This was a great opportunity to build partnerships with outside organizations, be a good steward of limited resources and support installation improvement,” said Company A Commander Capt. Bruce Leuthold. “The sustained fuel savings and streamlined use of recycled fill material were added benefits.”
To determine how deep the water was, Hoy invited the 5th Engineer Battalion’s Survey and Design section, along with the 50th Multi Role Bridge Company, to participate in the project.
“We invited 50th MRBC to execute part of their mission essential tasks list by conducting reconnaissance and executing an assault boat crossing with their Zodiac,” Hoy said. “They were also the means of transportation for the Survey and Design section, who used newly fielded technology that can gauge the depth of waterways. So, they each got to train on parts of their METL and new equipment, and in turn provide our company with data on how much fill would be required to completely fill in the pond.”
For Spc. Lazaro Pena, a heavy equipment operator at the 509th who helped move the concrete with a bull dozer, the project is a great opportunity for both new and experienced engineer Soldiers.
“It gives the newer guys stick time, so they get to become proficient with the equipment we’re using right now,” he said. “And it gives us a chance to get a refresher to make sure we don’t forget the skills we’ve learned.”
Robinson said he can’t say enough nice things about the Soldiers of the 509th.
“They’re awesome – they love coming out here,” he said. “They get to train their Soldiers and I’m very happy to help them out with projects.”
Problems like this water hazard can be opportunities, Hoy said.
“At the end of the day, we’ve built our operators’ proficiency on tasks they’ll see in their next unit while saving taxpayer dollars on two separate projects that melded into one – all while making Fort Leonard Wood a safer place to live and work,” Hoy said.