Rainy weather in early May is just another obstacle to overcome for the Soldiers of Resolute Castle 2017, an engineering exercise underway in Romania and Poland. When rain turned their roads to a slick muck, endangering the trucks hauling rock for the tank trails, the engineers built a new road to continue work and prevent future delays.
For their three weeks of training in Romania, Soldiers of 124th Engineer Company, 122nd Engineer Battalion, South Carolina National Guard and 381st Engineer Company, 926th Engineer Battalion are working with Soldiers from Romania’s 10th Engineer Brigade to build a Non-Standard Live-Fire Range at Joint National Training Center, Cincu, Romania. The range will have multiple lanes and fighting positions for NATO armored gunnery exercises.
To support the tanks that will eventually rumble over its roads, the range requires a constant supply of rock. “It takes 150 truckloads per working day,” said Capt. Darin Larson of 926th Engineer Brigade, officer-in-charge of the Cincu projects.
That long line of civilian trucks ground to a halt as the rain began and their tires stuck in the mud. The engineers laid rip-rap as a road for the trucks, but the drivers, Romanian contractors from the area, were wary of the large rocks with their sharp edges. “They could easily pop a tire,” said 1st Lt. Hillman Dorn, 124th Engineer Company, of Edgefield, SC. With their front end loaders, rollers, and graders, the engineers compacted dirt, laid down a finer rock to cover the rip-rap, and graded the road. Eventually, the dump trucks began moving again.
Engineers have to adapt to the terrain as they shape it. Earlier rotations invested a significant number of articulated concrete mats—concrete blocks joined by a flexible material—to support a low-water crossing before they could begin laying rock for the road. Once that access was established, they began clearing and grubbing out the dirt. “The first 8-12 inches is bio-matter and old roots that will make the road sink over time,” said 1st Lt. Dorn. “You have to cut it out, compact the dirt, and build the road up from there."
As a platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Antonie Lott of Saluda, SC, 124th Engineer Company, has enjoyed the opportunity to work with Resolute Castle 17, a NATO initiative to increase shared operational understanding between soldiers at all levels of the armed forces and re-affirm member nations’ commitment to their mutual safety and sovereign borders. “I like meeting new people and learning new things, and you do that here.” He sees the challenges of weather and terrain as inconvenient, but also an opportunity to adapt and train his soldiers on other skills. “You do whatever you can, as the weather permits.”