By Sgt. Michael L. Owens
Louisiana National Guard
NEW ORLEANS, (8/7/10) -- Teamwork is an integral part of the operations of the Louisiana National Guardâ€™s 527th Engineer Battalion, 225th Engineer Brigade, as the Guardsmen continue their work in Grand Isle, La., in support of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The 844th Horizontal Engineer Company and the 1022nd Vertical Engineer Company, both from the 528th Eng. Bn., are working at Camanida Pass building and maintaining a rock wall land bridge. Normally, the units, one horizontal and the other vertical, work different missions; but for this operation, they are working together to get the job done.
At any given time, the engineers are using large bulldozers, dump trucks carrying hefty rocks and four-wheeled Gator vehicles, along the small, narrow island area they are operating. Working in close coordination to keep everyone safe is paramount.
â€œWe are out here on the beaches and have many different aspects moving at one time,â€ said Sgt. Michael D. Leehy, of West Monroe, La., and a heavy equipment operator with the 844th Horizontal Eng. Co. â€œUsing the battle-buddy system out here is really important, especially to ensure everyoneâ€™s safety.
â€œThe bull dozer operators need spotters on the ground to make sure they are placing the rocks in the correct area, and most importantly, not backing up too far and causing the dozers to slip in the water,â€ said Leehy.
The spotters are also there to act as liaisons between the bulldozer and dump truck drivers, to make sure they know exactly where the rocks need to go.
â€œSince the dump trucks are driving along the beach, picking up and dropping off material, they do not really know the progress we have made since their last dump. The spotter has to direct the trucks into the correct position,â€ said Pfc. Chelsey R. Pardue, of Winnfield, La., and one of the 844thâ€™s heavy equipment operators working at Caminada Pass.
Another challenge facing the engineers is the extreme heat of the summer months in Louisiana. Early on in basic training, Soldiers are taught the signs to watch their battle-buddies for, as a person can quickly become a heat casualty in such hot working conditions. Easily, this is a Soldierâ€™s most important job, to make sure their fellow Guardsmen are safe.
â€œWe stress to each and every person to make sure they keep an eye on each other,â€ said Staff Sgt. Ryan Norred, of the 844th and the noncommissioned officer in charge of the mission.
â€œThey have to make sure to check for fatigue or signs of becoming a heat casualty. Heat injuries are something that you cannot necessarily detect in yourself, so it is up to the team to make sure they catch any telling behavior,â€ he said.
As a leader, Norred also knows that teamwork builds unit cohesion, and that also makes the unit operate most efficiently.
â€œIn a normal situation, we meet one weekend a month and for our two-week annual training,â€ he said. â€œNow that we are all working together daily in the oil spill response, we are all becoming friends, and that in itself makes for a better work environment and unconsciously builds teamwork.â€