GAYLORD, Mich. –
While it is common to see Michigan National Guard Soldiers conducting training operations throughout the state, a less frequent sight is when the general public shares a campground with a military unit.
Approximately 100 Soldiers from the 1430th Engineer Company (1430th EN CO), 107th Engineer Battalion (107th EN BN
), Michigan National Guard (MING), conducted multiple engineering projects at Otsego Lake State Park and Young State Park from June 5 – 16, 2022.
Skills such as carpentry, roofing, masonry, plumbing, electrical work, trench digging and pouring concrete were on full display for civilians at both campgrounds.
“This collaboration between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and MING is something we’ve worked very hard to establish,” said Keith Cheli, DNR regional field planner and landscape architect.
“After last year’s projects in the Upper Peninsula, it’s great to see the engineers continue their work at two additional parks,” Cheli added.
Campers at Otsego Lake observed as MING engineers not only camped alongside them, but poured new concrete for sidewalks, driveways and water fill stations. Additionally, one of the park’s bathhouses received a new waterproof roof.
“We took off the preexisting shingles and the ice and water shield,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Brett Wiggers, 1430th EN CO vertical engineer platoon leader and roofing project officer-in-charge. “We removed damaged boards and completely replaced the old roof. It looks brand new now.”
The 1430th EN CO would normally conduct their two weeks of annual training on a base such as Camp Grayling, staying in military barracks or under tents out in the field. While the tents remain the same, Soldiers commented positively about the experience of staying in a campground, as well as working together with the DNR.
“The relationship with the DNR has been great; they actually let us stay at the camp free-of-charge,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy Stults, 1430th EN CO acting platoon sergeant and roof construction supervisor. “I’ve previously stayed at various campgrounds in the past, but to have our own section dedicated to the military is something special and completely different.”
“The camp personnel even brought us cookies one morning,” Stults added.
Aside from the uncommon access civilians experienced during the campground engineering projects, this type of civilian and military cooperation is also unique for the state of Michigan.
On numerous occasions, civilian law enforcement has teamed with military police, and emergency medical technicians have worked together with military medical personnel. A recent example of this is when MING Soldiers were activated to assist civilian counterparts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the 1430th EN CO’s current project, they essentially serve as subcontractors through the Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) program.
IRT is a collaborative program that leverages military services and community resources to enhance value and cost savings. Normally, communities provide materials and basic services, such as a campground, while the military contributes manpower, skills and equipment. The IRT’s mission is to produce mission-ready forces through military training opportunities that provide key services for American communities.
This year’s IRT project provided a rare opportunity for the 107th EN BN’s survey and design section to conduct hands on technical training with subject matter experts incorporating industry standards.
“The training greatly increased the overall proficiency of the section and their ability to assist other military units on future projects,” added U.S. Army Maj. Megan Breen, executive officer for the 107th EN BN.
The DNR contributed additional resources through a partnership with a consulting firm, as well as an engineering contractor which provided the proper licensing requirements for MING engineers to perform the work.
Environmental consultants also ensured the work did not compromise any archaeological areas at the parks.
“We are extremely grateful for the DNR providing us the opportunity to complete engineering projects at two beautiful Michigan parks,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, MING adjutant general. “Our Soldiers bring high quality skills to the table and this partnership further strengthens our relationship within local communities.”