DVIDS – News – Forward Engineer Support Team rounds out training exercise with real-world contingency operation response Leave a comment

CAMP GRUBER, Okla. – Members of the 59th Forward Engineering Support Team – Advance (FEST-A) gathered here to exercise their emergency response capabilities and complete required certification training.

The 59TH FEST-A is a part of the United States Army Corps of Engineers – Field Force Engineering program.

This small, advance engineering team rapidly deploys worldwide and provides technical engineer support by conducting critical infrastructure surveys, engineer reconnaissance operations, base camp planning, geo-spatial (GIS) operations, as well as construction, planning and design assessments.

The exercise focused on team members sharpening their forward engineering support skills and took a sudden turn of events when they were called upon mid-stride for an unexpected, real-world, contingency operation mission to Ft. Sill, Okla., where the team sprung to action to assist in repairing facilities damaged during a recent severe winter weather event.

“This was the first collective event for the team and I would definitely call it a success,” said the 59th FEST-A Commander, Lt. Col. Courtney Hawkins. “We spent a total of 10 days at Camp Gruber exercising our skills before we were redirected to support the Warfighters on Ft. Sill, Okla.,” added Hawkins. “The most valuable part of the training was getting the team to work together as a cohesive unit and those efforts definitely paid off as we deployed to Ft. Sill.”

Prior to their movement to Ft. Sill, the team was met at Camp Gruber by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District, Commander, Col. Scott S. Preston, who observed team member presentations and offered encouragement for their efforts, as well as senior-leader advice related to solving difficult engineering challenges the team faced during the exercise.

As part of the training, team members assessed notional damaged infrastructure, while also providing engineering solutions and recommendations to senior commanders on the ground.

Miranda Ryan, an environmental scientist with the Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said she joined the team because she wanted to try something different and experience a professional challenge outside of her normal comfort zone.

“I wanted to do something a little more fast-paced so I could see projects come to fruition quickly during an emergency contingency operation,” added Ryan. “We’re training to gear up for future deployments with this certification exercise so that we fully understand the skills required should we be activated for a deployment.”

Ryan, a relatively new member of the team, said her roll on the 59th FEST-A is to serve as an alternate for the environmental functional-area expert, but also stated she could help out with the GIS mission because she has an educational background and work experience in that field of expertise as well.

Little did she know that she and the other members of the team would be called upon to deploy for a real-world contingency operation during her time at Camp Gruber, Okla.

Colonel Scott S. Preston, Commander, USACE Tulsa District, responsible for providing administrative and logistical support to the 59th FEST-A puts it this way, “These forward engineering support teams bring the Corps of Engineers technical engineering capabilities to commanders around the world and enhance the supported unit’s mission by helping them solve critical engineering problems.”

“We provide administrative and logistical support to the team to make sure they are taken care of,” added Scott. “However, we don’t provide them with their missions. Instead, that comes from higher headquarters”

Cory Phillips, Civil Engineer, Tulsa District Civil Design Section, has been on the team since 2009.

“If you’re looking for an amazing opportunity to deploy, the FEST-A is the way to go, because you’re doing fast-paced and professionally rewarding work,” said Phillips.

Colonel Preston echoed that sentiment.

“If a Corps of Engineer’s employee is interested in joining a Forward Engineer Support Team, I encourage them to do so,” said Preston. “You will become part of a close-knit team and provide engineering expertise to the Warfighter around the world.”

According to Preston, USACE employees don’t necessarily need to be an expert in any field but do need to be able to find solutions to challenging problems.

“While deployed, team members also have the ability to tap into the knowledge and expertise of the 37,000-strong, Corps of Engineers workforce, to provide support when and where they need it,” added Preston.

Once the 59th FEST-A arrived at Ft. Sill, they immediately began identifying damages and writing scopes of work to establish the requirements required to repair more than 150 structures damaged during the winter storm emergency.

“The contingency operations mission at Ft. Sill set a new standard for all future missions to follow,” said Tulsa District’s Chief of Emergency Management, Bill Smiley.

“Fortunately, the 59th FEST-A was able to follow us to Ft. Sill on such short-notice,” added Smiley. “They are very skilled in their respective disciplines,” said Smiley. “The team was called upon to support the Ft. Sill Senior Mission Commander, our Nation’s Warfighters stationed there and Garrison officials — and they did exactly that.”

According to Smiley, Emergency Management (EM) has three primary mission areas, which include all-hazards preparedness, response mitigation and recovery preparedness.

“At the end of their eight days on the ground at Ft. Sill, the 59th FEST-A met all mission requirements and completed their work assignments seven days early,” added Smiley.

Date Taken: 03.18.2021
Date Posted: 03.18.2021 14:07
Story ID: 391747
Location: OK, US

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