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Rhode Island National Guard engineers test deployment readiness

By Rhode Island National Guard | Feb. 27, 2020

EAST GREENWICH, R.I. – More than 65 Soldiers from the 861st Engineer Support Company, Rhode Island Army National Guard, completed a rigorous three-week combat training exercise in the challenging, austere environment of Fort Polk, Louisiana.

The 861st ECS acted as rotation augmentation support for Task Force Spartan and conducted mobility and defensive engineer operations with the 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

Task Force Spartan consisted of four phases: attack, defense, sustainment and stability operations, said 1st Lt. Joshua Colasante, the 861st ECS commander. The 861st was key in the defensive portion, focused mostly on counter mobility and survivability.

"We were the only National Guard unit of the 5,500 Soldiers participating in the exercise," said Colasante. "We were able to get a year's experience in three weeks. It was a huge benefit to train alongside active-duty units and see how we stacked up. We were able to keep pace with them without any problems at all."

Additionally, the 861st brought nearly 60 pieces of equipment to Fort Polk's Joint Readiness Training Center, said 1st Lt. Alex Kowalski, unit movement officer for the 861st ECS.

The training enhanced the unit's preparedness for missions at home or abroad and tested its ability to execute complicated maneuvers and to adapt in a rapidly changing environment.

"It was an austere environment," said Sgt. Brandon Young, a squad leader with 861st ECS. "At times, some of our Soldiers were up to their knees in mud. The exercise was meant to be difficult and shake us up. It was great training."

The 861st ECS Soldiers returned home Jan. 29.