Across the vast worldwide scope of engineering services the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) provides, engineer Soldiers play a significant and vital role in supporting military and disaster relief operations relevant to the nation’s security, providing services to the military, Department of Defense, and multiple federal agencies, both domestic and overseas.
249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power)
For example, Soldiers from the 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), a power generation battalion that provides services to military units and federal relief organizations, deployed to Saipan in 2015 in response to Typhoon Soudelor to assess and repair critical power infrastructure.
“It means a great deal to me to be a part of a unit that’s professional and is all about providing services to not only Soldiers and all the branches of the military, but local governments. We’re multi-faceted and we’re fluid, so we can change to adapt to just about any situation that arises. We’re always ready to deploy.”
As other mission examples, Sgt. Mason Weitzel, a senior power station electrician with Alpha Company in Hawaii, has twice participated in Missile Defense Agency (MDA) flight tests. “Our role in that was to provide electrical systems expertise and operate the prime power unit for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, radar,” he said. “These missions were to validate the flight test intercept capabilities of the radar for threats in Asia and the Middle East to protect the United States and its allies from any missile threats.”
The unit also participated in U.S. Pacific Command’s Pacific Pathways exercises earlier this year.
“This was the first time that they asked Prime Power to provide electrical power,” Weitzel said. “Our platoon was tasked with deploying our mobile electric power plant to Thailand and the Philippines to provide power to the Army Soldiers.” It was a great benefit for them, he added, to have electrical power “in a quite austere environment.”
The technical expertise and broad capabilities of the battalion stand out for Weitzel. “It means a great deal to me to be a part of a unit that’s professional and is all about providing services to not only Soldiers and all the branches of the military, but local governments,” he said. “We’re multi-faceted and we’re fluid, so we can change to adapt to just about any situation that arises. We’re always ready to deploy.”
In another example, instrumentation technician Sgt. Zackery Slater of Charlie Company at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, took part in a mission to Romania last year in support of MDA.
“The fact that we were able to go from Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to Romania with such a short deployment notice and be fully capable to provide power, that’s an amazing feat.”
“We were sent there as a last-minute entity to provide temporary power generation for one of their new construction sites while they were transitioning and building the site up,” Slater said. “We deployed in roughly 12 days – from notification of orders to boots on ground, set up, and ready to run – which was pretty historic for the battalion. … Normally we fall in on equipment that’s already in place, but we got all of our equipment together, loaded it up on a couple birds [aircraft], and flew it over to Romania. That was a really high-profile mission because we were there supporting a presidential mandate to get the site completed and operational within our allotted time period.”
Slater has also served as a NATO training adviser to the Afghan military. “Our purpose there was to advise the Afghan army on not only how to maintain their current facilities, but to also help them meet their needs in [managing] the facilities we were turning over to them as we shut down bases around the country,” he said.