Engineers improve roads for future training

Story by Capt. Gustave LaFontaine, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Soldiers from the 207th Horizontal Construction Company of Hazard, Ky. make improvements to a road at Hidden Valley Training Site in Powell County, Ky. (Photo by Capt. Gustave LaFontaine, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

CLAY CITY, Ky. — Hidden Valley Training Center is tucked away in rolling hills just east of Irvine, Ky.  The site annually hosts the Command Sergeant Major challenge for Soldiers of the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade as well as other training events for the Kentucky National Guard.

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This summer the training site is undergoing many improvements by members of the 207th Horizontal Construction Company of Hazard, Ky., as part of the unit’s annual training.  Their chief objective was to make improvements to one of the existing, yet modest, roads that lead into the training site.

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Master Sgt. Brendon Ritchie oversees his team as they work on a road improvement project at the Kentucky National Guard’s Hidden Valley Training Site in Powell County. (Photo by Capt. Gustave LaFontaine, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

The engineers have already completed the improvement of more than 4,000 feet of road.  However, the 207th faced many obstacles as they worked to improve the seldom-used road.

“The road was already made but it was nothing but a big mud hole,” said Sgt. Jamison Fugate on the state of the road.

Master Sgt. Brendon Ritchie led a team of 15 Soldiers in the improvement project.  The job included the use of more than a dozen engineering skills and a variety of engineering equipment.  Ritchie explained some of their first obstacles.

“The biggest problem we had was moisture and the lack of ditches.  If you can’t control your water you can’t have a road. It took us a day to get all the ditches done and get the water off of it.”

Preparing the ditches allowed the engineers to further develop the road surface.

“Once we did that we started putting the vibratory roller on it to compact it a little bit better.  After that we started running our geotech.”

Geotech is a moisture barrier fabric that improves the durability of the road.  It lies beneath every square inch of the Hidden Valley road.  Fugate recalled the speed that the 207th Soldiers installed the material.

“In one day we laid 4,000 feet of geotech from the north gate to a new bivouac site.”

The opportunity to complete a real-world mission was motivational for the 207th Soldiers.

“It’s a great team building exercise,” said Fugate.

“This is what they enjoy,” said Ritchie. “They get out here and they get some (operating) time, they learn and they can see what we’re doing.”

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Soldiers from the 207th Horizontal Construction Company of Hazard, Ky. make improvements to a road at Hidden Valley Training Site in Powell County, Ky. (Photo by Capt. Gustave LaFontaine, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

“Now they see why we’re putting a ditch in and they see why we’re pushing material in certain areas.”

Over the course of the project Ritchie has seen his Soldiers develop pride in their work.

“They care about their mission and they want the quality and the look.  These Soldiers care about the job.”

The road that the 207th is improving is the largest project that they are completing but it’s not the only one.  Ritchie’s team has also been improving a landing zone for helicopters and preparing a bivouac site for tents.  In the future they hope to be able to build tent pads for the bivouac site, construct a motor pool and finish another 2,500 square feet of road.  The mission that the 207th is completing will pave the way for future of training for Soldiers at Hidden Valley.

“It’s going to help Soldiers train better,” said Fugate. “That’s the main goal.”

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