WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK, S.D. – Members of the South Dakota National Guard’s 842nd Engineer Company are participating in the Golden Coyote training exercise by building a road at Wind Cave National Park, June 10-20.
The Golden Coyote exercise provides relevant training opportunities in support of overseas contingency operations and homeland defense. Service members train on both individual and collective tasks to help with combat readiness.
The 842nd will be working on 266 Road, a single lane dirt road located off of Red Valley Road. Their mission is to expand the road into two lanes and reinforce it with gravel to allow two-wheel drive vehicles easier access to additional acres of the park.
“This road is important because it will provide access to many recreational activities for the community as well as many educational opportunities,” said Tom Farrell, Wind Cave National Park ranger and chief of interpretation.
Over the one-mile stretch of road, the 842nd estimates that they will move 2,200 cubic yards of dirt, will haul and spread 4,700 tons of gravel, and will place 16 culverts.
The 842nd is using various pieces of heavy equipment including dozers, graders, dump trucks and other excavating equipment to complete the mission.
“This mission has improved our unit cohesiveness, normally our platoons have to work on smaller projects throughout the year,” said Spc. Isaac Grassel, a new Soldier in the 842nd and first time attendee of the Golden Coyote. “This project has given us the opportunity to work together on a much larger scale.”
The 842nd also has surveyors from the 153rd Engineer Battalion, SDARNG, and one Soldier from the United Kingdom working with them on the project.
“I get to work side-by-side with the American troops and observe how the engineers run their missions, then share that experience with my troops back home,” said Cpl. Michael Smart, 71st Engineer Regiment, United Kingdom.
Wind Cave National Park officials say 5,556 acres were added to the park in 2011 and are hoping to grant public access to the southeast boarder of the park within one year.
“It is really critical we get this land open,” said Farrell. “We couldn’t do it without the South Dakota National Guard.”