220th fights mud while widening roads at Macon
MACON, Mo. -- In a word, muddy.
That's the one adjective that keeps coming from the mouths of Soldiers of the 220th Engineer Company when they are asked to sum up this year's annual training at the Missouri National Guard's Macon Training Site.
"From the minute we walk out of our tent to the minute we walk back in, we are living in mud," said the 220th's company commander, Capt. Timothy Biedenstein. "That's the first thing I'm going to remember about AT 2010."
Those are not ideal conditions, especially considering that the 220th is a company of heavy equipment operators working during AT this year to widen dirt roads and replace underground culverts at the training site.
"Dirt is easy to play with, easy to fix," Biedenstein said. "Mud is impossible."
For much of the two-week annual training, rain -- often heavily -- has fallen on the projects assigned to the 220th, creating working conditions that have caused delays and sudden changes in plans. When it didn't rain, temperatures rose to the upper 80s, accompanied by stifling humidity.
"But we're making the best of it," Biedenstein said. "Our guys have still got a lot of stick time on the equipment. Hopefully, we'll complete the mission. We're going to give it the old college try."
The 220th has several missions to undertake to make improvements at the Macon Training Site, including widening 2.4 miles of road and replacing a couple of underground culverts. At one site, Soldiers were working with 5 tons of gravel, distributing it along a soggy stretch of road. Others were widening the roadway with chainsaws to make way for the improvements.
1st Sgt. Brian Sartin said many of the Soldiers were getting much needed time behind the wheels of equipment like scrapers, vibration rollers, road graders, bobcats, front-end loaders and dump trucks.
"We've got a lot of new young Soldiers," Sartin said. "We've really been able to get them a lot of stick time. That's good for them and good for us as a unit."
But Sartin also said the muddy conditions have been a factor.
"It's been raining every other day," Sartin said. "There's not much we can do with mud. It changes our operation limits. It's also made the days rather long and tedious. But we're doing our best."
At another site, where the Soldiers were excavating an area 15 feet wide and 10 feet deep, Staff Sgt. Randy Hargis said they were battling similar conditions as they work to replace a culvert.
"We're not getting as much done as we wanted," he said. "We wanted to do more. We wanted to get more done, honestly. It has been intense out here. The weather has not been cooperating."
Still, Sartin said, the Soldiers were trying to stay motivated, especially those eager to get some time on equipment that they don't often get to use in a real training environment.
"They really seem to enjoy getting out here and doing what the Army trained them to do," Sartin said. "We also really like Macon Training Site. It's large enough for us to work our equipment. We can't do that everywhere. We tend to leave a really big footprint."
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