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Guard, active Engineer bridging units test new boat at Fort Knox

​Fort Knox Engineer bridge crewmembers from Fort Knox's 502nd Multi-Role Bridge Company perform safety boat operations with the Kentucky National Guard's 2061st MRBC, running the Bridge Erection Boat down the Ohio River during operational testing of the BEB at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
(Photo Credit: Larry L. Furnace, Operational Test Command Test and Documentation Team)

Guard, active Engineer bridging units test new boat at Fort Knox

Story by Michael Novogradac

U.S. Army Operational Test Command


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The Ohio River between Indiana and Kentucky saw operational testing of the Army Engineer Regiment's new Bridge Erection Boat (BEB) here Aug. 19.

The 2061st Multi-Role Bridge Company (MRBC), a National Guard unit out of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, joined with Active duty Engineers of the 502nd MRBC from Knox to do wave after wave of bridging operations, running the BEB through its paces under a Limited User Test (LUT).

The BEB will replace the current Legacy MK II BEB which has been in service since 1984, and is used to deploy the Improved Ribbon Bridge during wet gap crossings.

"The aim of this LUT is to provide data on the operational effectiveness and suitability of the BEB," said Milwaukee, Wisconsin native Maj. Mattii S. Minor, BEB test officer with the U.S. Army Operational Test Command's (OTC) Maneuver Support and Sustainment Test Directorate.

Minor said the LUT is in support of full rate production of the system and fielding to units, as part of the Army's modernization efforts.

Over five test days, BEB crewmembers provided their input to OTC data collectors on whether or not the boat meets the needs of their mission.

The 2061st MRBC's 1st Sgt. Aaron T. Lester, whose hometown is Frankfort, Kentucky said his Guard unit is new, having stood up from scratch during October 2014. He provided 37 Soldiers, which included bridge crewmembers and maintainers.

"Taking part was a great opportunity," he said. "During July, we performed our first annual training together, using a modified version of the new equipment, provided by the Bridging Program Manager."

The platoon leader of the assembled Engineer Soldiers said his own Soldiers were melded with 2nd Platoon of the 502nd, and Soldiers from the 2061st, into a seamless group that worked well together.

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​Fort Knox Engineer bridge crewmembers from Fort Knox's 502nd Multi-Role Bridge Company work with the Kentucky National Guard's 2061st MRBC to prepare a bay using the Bridge Erection Boat while assembling a full raft on the Ohio River during operational testing of the BEB at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
(Photo Credit: Larry L. Furnace, Operational Test Command Test and Documentation Team)

"Many of the Soldiers have a good starting point as far as their knowledge of the bridging system," said 1st Lt. Aleksandrs V. Schuler, from Fairfax, Virginia.

Schuler explained how being involved in an operational test gave the Engineer Soldiers the chance to polish their bridging skills, which included constructing a seven-float ribbon bridge raft to ferry equipment across a water gap, and a full enclosure, where the Soldiers put the bridge sections in the water in the form of a raft, going from one shore to another shore.

"We were on the water at least 10 times, whether we were doing training or testing," Schuler explained. "The speed and the pace at which we built the raft was in close approximation to what we would do in a conflict scenario.

"The boat allows us to maneuver the bridge bays as necessary to complete the mission," he said.

The young lieutenant went on to explain the experience of being involved in an operational test.

"We actually got to see what the testing process looks like," he said. "We always get equipment in our unit, but we hardly ever question what kind of vetting process it goes through before it gets to our hands.

"So this is a very unique opportunity for our unit to be on the other side of that equation," he added. "We were glad to be able to offer our feedback, especially because it will affect bridge crewmembers over the next several decades."

OTC is subordinate to the Army Test and Evaluation Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and is the Army's only independent operational tester. Testing and assessing Army, Joint, and Multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, OTC uses typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer -- the American Soldier.