NEWS | June 21, 2021

Steady (Construction) Under Fire: Joint Exercise Develops Base Training Grounds

By Staff Sergeant Sabatino DiMascio, 87th Public Affairs

Members of the U.S. Army Reserve 668 Engineer Vertical Construction Company, 854 Engineer Battalion, and 306th Engineer Company along with the U.S. Air Force’s 201st Red Horse Detachment 1 took part in the Castle Installation Related Construction exercise at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, from June 18-21.  


The U.S. Army Reserve units conducted their two week Annual Training at Joint Base MDL, and worked under a joint operation with the 201st Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, or Red Horses.


Focusing on individual and squad level proficiency, their objectives were to partake in construction projects around the base, including overhauling one of the driver training courses, building fixed latrines, and laying concrete padded pathways, all within a simulated combat environment. 


“These are civilians that are service members. They can leverage their talents from the civilian world and workforce to benefit the service,” said U.S. Army Col. Jon Brierton, Army Support Activity Dix commander. “So what you have here are masons, carpenters, electricians, union workers, all masters of operating heavy equipment that bring their expertise here, and that is such a phenomenal intangible benefit to the service. By simply having these Reservists here it is saving the American taxpayers upwards of a million dollars, rather than had we just contracted this out, especially nowadays post COVID where inflation and the cost of building materials are so high, not to mention how civilian employers are having a hard time hiring the employees to do the work.”


One of the main objectives of the Castle IRC was the rebuilding and revamping of one of the driver training courses on the base. The course previously served as a terrain obstacle course for Humvee driver’s training, but with the phasing in of the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle this Fall, the course needed to be toughened to handle the new capabilities of the JLTV.


U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Timothy Holston, a logistics officer stationed at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, was present to provide oversight and technical knowledge on the construction to maximize the precision of the course for the JLTV.


“One of the issues for the course at Fort McCoy was that it was built for the Humvee, and the heavier JLTV was breaking the obstacles,” said Holston. “By steepening the slopes, adding potholes, burying telephone poles for the JLTV to hit full speed, and adding water and sand fording areas, this new course here at JB MDL will only allow the JLTV to better showcase it’s capabilities.”


Throughout the exercise, members simulated being deployed in a combat environment, so in addition to the construction, entry control points and security perimeter patrols were included into the exercise. Other members played the role of an opposing force, testing the readiness of the soldiers. 


“The thing we stressed the most here to everyone is that it is a learning environment, and we care about everyone getting their hands on training,” said U.S. Army Reserve 2nd Lt. Joseph Roeckel, 306th Engineer Company. “We know people are going to make mistakes, and we’d rather them make them here and learn, rather than when out in a real combat environment.”