Soldiers assigned to the Connecticut National Guard's 250th Multi-Role Bridge Company conducted wet and dry bridging operations training along the Thames River in New London and Stones Ranch Military Reservation, respectively, June 10, 2020.
On the Thames River, these Soldiers used a small fleet of Bridge Erection Boats to construct an Improved Ribbon Bridge, a collection of interchangeable floating raft sections that can be assembled into various configurations to serve a multitude of purposes.
The IRB team started the day by practicing the construction a five-float raft, a configuration of three bridge sections and two ramps. Once created, the Soldiers can use the Bridge Erection Boats to push the float from one shore to another, giving the military a solution to transporting vehicles, troops, and supplies across otherwise impassable bodies of water.
The unit chose the Thames River for this training exercise because of the increased complexity of working on a moving body of water.
"Unlike lakes and ponds, this actually has a current so it gives a lot more training value," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Liskiewicz, team leader for the 250th. "You get a little more challenge on moving water."
"Working against the current is tough," said Spc. Daniel Lovallo, boat operator. Constantly having to keep the boat in check to counter it to construct the bridge is full of challenges and everyone needs to work together as a team to ensure success.
Each team is comprised of Soldiers who fill three roles: the build crew, deck hands, and boat operators. The build crew is responsible for taking the individual raft pieces and fitting them together in the desired configuration. After the rafts have been deposited into the water, the deck hands tie off the bridge pieces to the boat for transportation. And the boat operators drive the boats to maneuver the floats to the assembly area.
With the inevitable turnover of Soldiers throughout the year – due to completed contracts and professional broadening assignments - training events like this allow experienced engineers to refine their skills and new Soldiers to learn from their seasoned counterparts.
"We are coming to a point where Soldiers progress and their career paths take them in different directions," said Liskiewicz. "So, when we have new soldiers, we like to get them out there and start training because the faster we can get them to know what we know, the better off we are."
Meanwhile, at Stones Ranch, other members of the 250th worked together to construct a Dry Support Bridge. The DSB is a static bridge that allows military units to cross gaps in terrain up to nearly 151 feet wide.
Like the IRB, the DSB is constructed in segments and requires a significant level of teamwork and communication to ensure a safe and timely execution of its construction. With a well-trained team, the bridge can be erected in ninety-minutes, but as a training event, the unit spanned the bridge construction over multiple days to maximize the learning opportunities for both seasoned and new Soldiers.
"Our communication is top notch," said Cpl. Ostap Lisowitch, a crane operator in training. "Everyone understands safety is the most important thing. If we need to go slow, we go slow and make sure everyone is safe, we don't break anything on the bridge, and everything gets done properly."
By the end of the unit's annual training, both teams will be more proficient in their bridging skills which can be instrumental in both overseas tactical and stateside civil emergency scenarios, proving the Connecticut National Guard with critical capabilities in their duel state and federal missions.