By CHRIS MENEES
Soldiers with the 913th Engineer Co. have finished training at Fort Bliss, Texas, and in the New Mexico desert.
The next stop is Kuwait.
The 163 soldiers from the Tennessee Army National Guard’s Union City-based 913th Engineer Co. left Union City Aug. 18 for a 12-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The unit, part of the 194th Engineer Brigade, has been at Fort Bliss for the past month for required training that precedes deployment to Kuwait.
1st Lt. Kevin Carroll, the 913th’s executive officer, reported to The Messenger Thursday that all of the unit’s deployment-required training was completed Sept. 22 at Fort Bliss and the unit was “validated as ready and able to deploy into any theater of operations to conduct its wartime mission.”
After validation, the soldiers were given four-day passes and many of them traveled back home or had loved ones come to Texas for a visit.
“It was great to get to see our families and relax for a few days before we prepare to fly to Kuwait,” Carroll wrote in an email message sent through company commander Capt. Jacob Partridge.
Carroll said the exact date is not known, but the unit should fly to Kuwait sometime during the first two weeks of October.
“This is a tough time for our soldiers to sit and wait when they have just completed all of their training and are ready to go do their job,” he said. “Although our soldiers are ready and anxious to get started with their mission in Kuwait, they have all been in the Army long enough to know that ‘hurry up and wait’ is a way of life.”
He said spirits are high, despite missing loved ones back home.
“Though our families and loved ones are missed more than can be put into words, we look ahead to the next time we can see them and hold our children again,” he said. “Spirits are high, our pride in the job we are doing and the hard work that is being put in is second to none. So take pride (that) your soldier is doing the noblest of work and hold your head high because that same soldier is making a difference for our future generations — because freedom has never been, nor will ever be, free.”
In a desire to let the community know what the unit has been doing, Carroll explained the training which has been under way at Fort Bliss for the past month.
He said the 913th’s advance party arrived at Fort Bliss on Aug. 15, before the main body of the unit, in order to set up and coordinate training and accommodations. The main body of the unit arrived safely by plane from Memphis on Aug. 18 following an emotional early-morning farewell from the community.
Upon arrival at Fort Bliss, all the soldiers immediately went through medical and administrative processing. To begin, each soldier had to pass the Mobilization, Reception, Staging and Onward Integration (MRSOI), which was broken into two parts — medical and administrative readiness.
The medical portion dealt with ensuring there were no major issues with the soldier’s overall readiness for deployment, while the administrative part consisted of ensuring the soldier had a power of attorney, if needed, to ensure “that the harder job of being the loved ones at home is taken care of,” Carroll said. Another large part was making sure the soldier’s family information was current and updated with the makeup of the family as far as spouse and children are concerned.
Once the medical and administrative processing were complete, the soldiers were issued any gear they might have been missing, along with specific items needed for training and deployment.
“The best part of this is that the soldier gets all the updated equipment,” Carroll said. “Every soldier likes new gear to replace the older things they have.”
For its next stop, the unit moved to a base camp in the southern New Mexico desert.
“Once we reached the base camp, which we would call home for the duration of the training, our training for our deployment actually began,” Carroll said.
The training included a combat livesaver course, radio communication and operating different computer systems used to communicate with and track soldiers’ movement in the field using GPS. From there, they moved to individual weapons training, along with crew serve weapon qualifications, and combative training.
In addition, the military conducted driver training for soldiers who had not previously driven an up armored HMMWV (Hummer).
“All of this was accomplished within the first full week of training. To say we have been busy is an understatement,” Carroll said.
The next week’s training consisted of gunnery, which qualifies a crew consisting of a driver, truck commander and gunner who fires a machine gun mounted on top of a vehicle, as well as Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle familiarization and Short Range Marksmanship.
A job well done
Carroll said in the hot weather, regularly over 100 degrees, the training was a bit tougher than normal.
“However, our soldiers, as they always do, rise to the challenge and show what exceptional men and women they truly are, and they have readily accepted the calling to be a soldier in the Tennessee Army National Guard,” he said.
“Our training is concluding here in New Mexico. Now our validation comes into play with a series of events that will include all that we have learned here and over the course of the varying military careers. These include practicing real life missions and how the leadership responds, as well as rehearsing how we, as soldiers, move during battle on foot and mounted in our vehicles.”
He said real life projects during training have included leveling of a new motor pool, road improvement on the training site, removal of loading ramps, and hauling and stockpiling fill material for future projects.
“The 913th has tremendous operators and experience unmatched within the realms of other horizontal construction companies,” he said. “The work our men and women have done here has not gone unnoticed. Numerous positive comments of appreciation have been given from members of the staff and command group here at Fort Bliss.”
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 9.30.11