Engineers tear up grass to better environment

Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

Natural Resources Program

Soldiers of the 577th Sapper Company exit an armored personnel carrier during a training exercise at the Harold L. Disney Training Center in Artemus, Ky., Sept. 22, 2013. Part of the Soldiers traininig included the placement of simulated shaped charges to create crater obstacles. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Cadet Brian Hicks)

ARTEMUS, Ky. — As a steady rain fell in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, Soldiers in rain gear, combat helmets and gas masks trudged through the muddy terrain of the Harold L. Disney Training Center in Artemus, Ky.  Holes were easily dug in the ground for placement of simulated charges, and armored tracked vehicles cruised the fields loading and unloading Soldiers here and there, leaving torn up grass and soil behind.

And Ricky French loves it. He said the all the havoc created is a benefit to the environment.

And just how does armored personnel carriers (APC)  benefit the land, you might ask?

It’s all about the grass. According to French, environmental officer for the Kentucky National Guard, the APCs were used as part of the Natural Resource Program.

To see more photos form the training, click here.

Natural Resources Program

Tracks from an armored personnel carrier streak the fields of the Harold L. Disney Training Center in Artemus, Ky., Sept. 22, 2013. The APCs were used by Soldiers of the 577th Sapper Company as a natural resource tool to assist the root systems of native grasses. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Cadet Brian Hicks)

“The Natural Resource Program is an ideal situation for blending the needs of training with the stewardship of the land,” said French.

French said native grasses in Kentucky have adapted to build stronger root systems the more they are disturbed. Military training and the use of the APCs were considered a natural resource tool, as they were used in the right location.

This type of disturbance not only supports the growth of native species but helps control non-native species using a mechanical control.  Native species thrive with these kinds of disturbances and trampling while the non native species are unable to establish strong root systems.

“Re-establishing native grasses is essential to wildlife habitat and soil stabilization, which also improves and supports the military and environmental mission of the Kentucky Army National Guard,” said French.

Soldiers of the 577th Sapper Company were in the field to conduct platoon, squad and individual training, as part of demolitions training required as part of an engineer company. Soldiers said the exercise was more interesting and motivating with the tracked Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) as part of the training. for some it was a one-of-a-kind experience.

“We usually have to prevent or minimize the damage caused by our tracks, which limits the realism of our training,” said Capt. James Schmitz, commander of the 577th.  “Having areas where our drivers can perform full speed combat maneuvers while improving the local environment is a big win for both us and the Disney Training Center.”

“It was one of my first times operating a track during a mock combat operation,” said Pfc. Sonny Ward.  “I just recently got my license on the vehicle, and it really helped me develop an appreciation for them.”

Spc. Alexander Weber said the APCs were key to a great training weekend and being able to operate them on grass without worrying about leaving tracks.

“I think it’s cool that we get to get out to use equipment that a lot of National Guard guys never get to see,” said Pfc. David Drummer. “They’re excellent training aids, and let’s be honest: it was just fun getting to tear up some grass in those machines.”

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