NEWS | July 29, 2016

Bridge Collapse Training Exercise

By Staff Sgt. Ashley Hayes 172nd Public Affairs Detachment

Soldiers with the 250th Engineers Company, Connecticut National Guard, and the Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) came together for a simulated bridge collapse exercise, Berlin, Vt., July 29, 2016. This training provided an opportunity for both groups to gain knowledge, while bringing together two entities who don’t often get to train together as a group.

Vigilant Guard is a national level emergency response exercise that is co-sponsored by the National Guard and NORTHCOM. It’s designed to provide National Guard units an opportunity to improve cooperation and relationships with regional civilian, military and federal partners, in preparation for emergencies and catastrophic events.

“Having an exercise where you have National Guard units working with civilian agencies is great,” said U.S. Army Captain Eric Roy, the battalion operations officer, with the 192nd Engineer Battalion, Connecticut National Guard. “Further more, having a National Guard unit not even organic to the state of Vermont up here working with your civilian agencies is certainly a plus.”

The simulated scenario included an earthquake occurring, causing a bridge to be washed out. The unit was then notified of the need for assistance by the Vermont AOT. Roy stated that they have military bridges of their own they train with, but the bridge used for this exercise was one more commonly used by civilian authorities. This training provided the soldiers and the AOT the chance to offer up mutual information and expertise. Roy went on to say that he wanted to fill in gaps of expertise, especially for junior enlisted soldiers and those who haven’t had much hands-on experience.

“Establishing this relationship in a simulated scenario, I think is great,” said Roy. “We get to work hand in hand, kind of learn how your AOT does things, how we would do things, how we can finesse our future training to meet how the two of us would mesh together in a real world scenario. It would cut down on some of those hiccups that we might have, had we not met or worked together.”

Filling in training gaps was very important to U.S. Army Specialist David Christofani, a heavy construction equipment technician with the 250th Engineers from the Connecticut National Guard. He sad that this exercise has given him the opportunity to train on something new and different than his typical job role.

“My role is a technician, so I fix the equipment, but it’s good to know how to do this stuff,” said Christofani. “I’m not always going to be in the motor pool working on trucks or construction equipment. This is perfect for me because I’ve never done this before. Now I have an idea how to do something like this if I’m pulled off of my normal job.”

Roy also stated that a bridge of this type realistically should be set up over the course of a day. With the AOT leading the training, the construction was completed quickly and seamlessly. The 250th Engineer Company has had the opportunity to construct the Mabey Logistic Support Bridge in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but have not had many opportunities since. This type of bridge can last anywhere from a day to years if needed, is durable, dependable and low maintenance.

“It’s temporary bridging primarily used in Iraq and Afghanistan, because it’s lighter than what was used previously. It’s portable and it’s pretty easy to put together,” said Roy.

The training also included classroom education and training at a staging site where different types of bridge parts are kept. For Christofani, this training is new, but also an exciting opportunity.

“Everything has surprised me,” said Christofani. “I roll with it because I like doing new things. I know how to do my job and I do it well. At this point in my life, I want to learn how to do other stuff and that’s why I wanted to come here to Vermont to do this.”

Roy said he felt the training experience was positive and was happy to exploit the hands-on training experience that allowed the unit to conduct bridging training that they don’t always get to do. This training also provided the unit the ability to build a foundation with the Vermont National Guard and the civilian groups, opening the door for further training opportunities and a better knowledge basis to assist in future emergency situations.

“The fact that we’re here and we’re actually putting our hands on the equipment, putting our hands on the bridge pieces, and helping construct, I think it’s worth while,” said Roy. “I think that leaving here, if we could have established a foundation to where we could build upon for future training opportunities with the Vermont AOT and Vermont Army National Guard, I think that would be the ultimate goal.”