Kentucky engineers get unique opportunity to support DoD program

By Capt. Josh Daugherty, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Soldiers with the 130th Engineer Company pause for a group photo on a walking bridge they helped construct at the Active Heroes Retreat in Shepherdsville, Ky., June 10, 2017. The 130th supported the construction efforts at the military charity’s facility through a Department of Defense-approved Innovative Readiness Training program. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Nasir Stoner)

SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky. – The noise of engines humming and the beeping sounds from equipment backing up filled the ears. In the distance, dust could be seen as it was stirred up by something big enough to make the ground shake under foot, and the smell of diesel fuel and exhaust floated through the trees. All signs paying testament to the work being performed as Kentucky Guardsmen with the 206th Engineer Battalion work to improve roads and parking areas at the Active Heroes Retreat in Shepherdsville, Ky.

Active Heroes, a charity for military families, is a participant in the Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) program. The IRT is a program designed to build mutually beneficial partnerships between the military and U.S. communities. These partnerships are crucial to strengthening our force and meeting the myriad of challenges we face in the future.

“This is a real-world mission we would be sent overseas to do,” said Cpt. Jayson McDonald, commander of the 130th Engineer Company. “We are definitely hitting our METL (Mission Essential Tasks List).”

A unit’s METL is a list of tasks the unit is expected to perform while deployed.

Over the course of the unit’s annual training, they have cleared debris, created roads, poured concrete pads, built bridges, and set culverts.

Pfc. Garrett Doom, a horizontal construction engineer with the 130th talked about his experience operating a 120M motorized grader. “Whenever I was in AIT, we had a grade-off and I won the competition over more than 40 other Soldiers. After this annual training, I think I’m going to find a new job that allows me to operate the equipment we have used here, especially the grader, it’s my favorite piece of equipment and I’ve had the most experience with it. This annual training has been a very good learning experience given the challenging terrain of the Active Heroes retreat.”

“Pfc. Doom has really impressed his leadership with his skills on the grader,” said company 1st Sgt. Jeff Cooper. “This is a real-world mission building something that’s going to last. It is for all military veterans. To know that we can bring our families back here one day and say, ‘I helped build this,’ is something to be proud of. Morale has been high”

The unit will have spent a total of about 4 weeks working at the site after several different rotations of Soldiers have cycled through. Beyond the 130th Engineers, the 118th Haul Platoon and the 2061st Bridge Company, both of the Kentucky Army National Guard have supported the mission during the year. Also supporting the mission later this summer will be the 6th Engineer Support Battalion, a U.S. Marine Reserve unit out of Battle Creek, Michigan followed by various components of the Kentucky Air National Guard.

“Getting approved for the IRT program took over 3 years but has proven to be worth all the effort,” said Troy Yocum, founder and President of Active Heroes Inc. “I don’t even recognize the retreat from day to day because they are doing so much work.”

Active Heroes’ main mission is to reduce Veteran suicides and everyone that has been involved in this process has helped to do just that.”

When it’s all said and done, hundreds of Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines will have supported the IRT mission, with an approval chain that extends all the way from Kentucky to the Pentagon. Engineers of the Kentucky National Guard are proud to be leading the way in another ground-breaking endeavor.

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