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NEWS | Aug. 15, 2022

Michigan Guard Engineers Focus on Community Improvement, Meet Strategic Goals

By U.S. Army Maj. Anthony Przybyla, Michigan National Guard

The 107th Engineer Battalion (107th EN BN), Michigan National Guard, continues to improve the local community through joint projects with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources via the Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) Program. The latest project involves a remote lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Horseshoe Lake is located in Marquette County, nestled west of M-95 approximately 30 miles southwest of the city of Marquette. The lake is so well hidden that Google mapping does not provide a specific location while in the city of Marquette.
Following U.S. Army Maj. Megan Breen, battalion officer-in-charge, 107th EN BN, to the south landing of the lake, the natural beauty of the area immediately grabs the attention.

“Approximately 50 Soldiers from four of our engineer companies participated in completing this project,” said Breen.

Initial site preparation was completed last fall by U.S. Army Capt. Michael Anderson, commander, 1431st Engineer Company, 107th EN BN, and two additional Soldiers on an alternate annual training. Preparations included clearing the north side of the road and hauling over 65 tons of stone aggregate (23A) to improve a key section of the access road.

"The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provided the entire bill of materials for the project worth a total of over $10,000,” said Anderson.

From July 13 – 18, 2022, Soldiers hauled over 750 tons of pit-run gravel and over 717 tons of stone aggregate. All materials were hauled by Soldiers utilizing 10-ton dump trucks, making the 10-mile round trip from the quarry almost 150 times.

The 1432nd Engineer Company, 107th EN BN, improved 1.6 miles of aggregate roadway leading to the public boat launch, while the 1437th Engineer Company (1437th EN CO), 107th EN, upgraded the launch site. Road improvements were conducted with a variety of heavy equipment including loaders, graders, rollers, and tracked skid steers.

Additionally, survey and design engineers, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 107th EN BN, established benchmarks, corrected for grade and provided quality control and assurance on the overall project. Reconnaissance Soldiers assigned to the 1437th EN CO emplaced a turbidity curtain in the lake for sedimentation control, and conducted an initial waterbody survey to set the conditions for future bridging operations.

Not only did this project provide valuable training to the Soldiers involved, it also helped better the community, providing an opportunity to demonstrate their finished work to family and friends.

Anderson, a heavy equipment operator at his civilian job, said his Soldiers enjoy conducting IRT projects, even if they have to bivouac in the northern forest of the Upper Peninsula.

The technical aspect involved in this project enhances what most Soldiers do while training at Camp Grayling, with the added benefit of DNR expertise on site. Soldiers gained valuable experience and knowledge they will continue to improve upon throughout their careers.

Retaining Soldiers is a primary objective of the National Guard. IRT projects like Horseshoe Lake assist the 107th EN BN to succeed in this area while also providing good training, quantifiable results and community involvement.

“This project meets multiple training objectives for the units participating,” said Breen. “But it is bigger than that, as this wet gap crossing has strategic importance to the nation.”

In a wet gap crossing, Engineer Soldiers secure and control a body of water, then utilize floating bridges to transport troops, heavy machinery and vehicles across.

The 1437th Multi-Role Bridge Company (1437th MRBC), 107th EN BN, is the only unit in Michigan to execute a 100m crossing, which requires one bridge platoon of Soldiers and equipment to span. They helped create this capability.

There are currently only 24 MRBCs among all Army component organizations, and now Michigan’s strategic asset can train locally multiple times per year.

Bridging is only one aspect of moving troops and equipment from one side to another, but the value is far-reaching. Infantry, field artillery and transportation units, among many others, can all benefit from rehearsing a wet gap crossing,

The 107th EN BN essentially built their own local training area. Both Soldiers and civilians benefit from the experience and community improvement, while enabling the battalion to reach its future training goals.

(U.S. Army National Guard Courtesy Article by Maj. Anthony Przybyla)