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NEWS | Aug. 16, 2012

Virginia Army National Guard engineers bridge the gap with Improved Ribbon Bridge

By Staff Sgt. Terra Gatti, U.S. Army Virginia National Guard

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. - Soldiers from the Virginia Army National Guard's 189th Multi-role Bridge Company bridged White's Lake outside here recently as part of the culminating exercise of two weeks of training. The Soldiers constructed an approximately 120-meter long bridge, called an Improved Ribbon Bridge, consisting of 13 interior bays and two ramp bays during their three-day field training exercise.

"What we can do, we can put these bridge bays down and connect them together and put any vehicle in the Army's system across it," said Army Capt. Matt Nowak, commander of the 189th MRBC. "We can put it down and have it out in 30 minutes to an hour and have tanks across it, have (M2) Bradleys across it – whatever you need."

As part of the exercise, the Soldiers of the 189th MRBC worked with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard's Company D, 112th Infantry Regiment (Anti-tank) and Company B, 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry Regiment to construct a bridge that enabled Soldiers from those units in Stryker combat vehicles to conduct an assault across the bridge.

"Initially we constructed a raft and loaded a Humvee onto it and linked up with a Stryker group and from there they loaded some zodiacs (assault boats) and assaulted the far side of the shore," said Army 1st Lt. Jonathon Russo, a platoon leader with the 189th MRBC.

But, being able to cross a body of water using the bridging system often means greater combat effectiveness for Soldiers in the field.

"Each bridge bay can be put down and put together in one minute, give or take," said Nowak. "It helps a commander cross the stream. They don't have to look for an alternate route or a bridge that may or may not be there."

Putting together the bridge bays is an easy task.

"It's a simple concept," Nowak said. "You just drop it in the water and they open up and you put them together, snap them in and it's just that easy."

Though Soldiers still need experience with the equipment to get the finer points down.

"I think the 189th (MRBC) is doing a great job on training all their troops, getting everybody on every piece of equipment and getting them trained on it," said Army Sgt. Robert Kinson, a bridge crew member with the unit from Woodbridge, Va.

When not on the water, Soldiers of the 189th MRBC engaged in a variety of other training activities, spending time working on weapons familiarization on the M2 .50 caliber machine gun, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and the M16 rifle. The unit was also able to double their number of licensed drivers and trained on warrior tasks and skills.

"Everything we expected to do, we hit," said Nowak. "They've done awesome. They've been highly motivated and we did it all safely. There's been a good teamwork effort here."

Nowak also stressed the importance of his entire unit, not just the bridge crew members.

"Other than our 12Cs, which are our bridge crew members, we have maintenance out here on site. We had welders that were welding some of our bridge bays to fix them. The multi-role bridge company isn't just about 12Cs, it's about maintenance and supply and support."