74th MRBC Field Training Exercise
Story by Pvt. Crystal D. Eldridge
Photo by Pfc. Fabian Ortega
13th COSCOM Public Affairs Office
"Turn rudders hard right! Get it over here! You got the T-bar? Hurry up! Move!"
Spray from the boat's side splashed onto the bays as the sergeant barked out orders.
"Throw it across! Hit him in the head with it! Pull! Pull!"
Soldiers scurried quickly across the metal bays, ropes flying through the air as sharply as the sergeant's words.
"Put your foot on both bays and walk it down! This way… "
The sergeant grabbed a rope and demonstrated with proficiency the technique his Soldiers should follow.
"Walk it down! Walk it down!"
The Soldiers tried to do as they were told, but the gap between the two bays was getting wider.
"Keep me straight! Walk it down! Pull!"
Sergeant and Soldier worked side by side to pull the two bays back together.
"Start T-in' it! Break her off! Get me straight!"
Jumping from the bay to a nearby boat, the sergeant pulled on levers to help the boat operator gain better control. Then he jumped back across to the bay.
"Get that ramp over here! Just go straight up! Little bit more! Heave! Tie this side! Help him out!"
The ramp and the bay refused to connect properly, but that did not stop the non-commissioned officer.
"We can do this! Back it off just a little bit! Pull me back just a little so it floats! That's good! All right! Now, walk it down. Now pull. Tie that side off. Woohoo!"
The sergeant fell back as the ramp and bay finally connected.
"I'm always good!"
Staff Sgt. Daniel Mcrae, who has more than 12 years of experience working on float bridges, relaxed for only a moment before jumping back into action. It was his job to help newcomers to the field gain some of the experience that makes him capable at what he does.
Mcrae is a member of the 74th Engineer Company (Multi-Role Bridge) and took part in field training exercises here Friday.
The mission was to build a "raft," a float bridge that can be guided up or down stream by boats. Float bridges are bridges that float on the water and are made of bays and ramps. Each bridge has two ramps, one on both ends, and any number of interior bays, large metal platforms that can be connected to each other and to ramps, said Spc. Timothy Wright of the 2nd platoon, 2nd section of the 74th.
Float bridges may reach from one side of a body of water to the other or act as ferries. Those that cross an entire area are called full closure bridges. Those that do not are called rafts and require boats to be hooked to them to move them across the water or up- or down-stream, said Wright.
Bays are carried by truck, helicopter or boat, then dropped (or launched) into the water. Boats wait nearby for the bay to automatically unfold as it hits the surf. The boat operator gets close enough for a rope to be tied to the bay, allowing the boat to guide the bay to its position, said 2nd Lt. Kristy L. Laudick, a platoon leader with the 62nd Engineer Battalion.
Once the bay has been launched, it is connected to another bay, ramp or both. Three people pull the bays together, then close the "dog bones," latches that look very much like dogs' bones, said Wright. T-bars, which look like capital Ts, are then used to tighten bolts which help the bays stay in place.
The boat operators play a huge role in how efficiently all of this is done. Boats help keep the bays still so Soldiers can secure the dog bones and ensure that the bays are properly attached, said Capt. Andrew Abicht, commander of the 74th.
Operators' jobs can be very difficult when currents are swift. That is why it is so important for them to gain as much experience as possible in field exercises where the current is smooth, Abicht said. Experience will help them control bays better, he said.
It is not only experience that is important, though, said Abicht. It is the soldiers themselves, their great attitude and high motivation, which will ultimately get the job done in the field and during the 74th's upcoming deployment.
Staff Sgt. Daniel Mcrae observes Soldiers' progress as they struggle to loosen a bolt with the aid of a T-bar during the 62nd Engineer Battalion field training exercise here Friday.