At the Limestone Hills Training Area west of Townsend, crews were kicking up dust this week.
78 Montana National Guard members were there for training. They were with the 260th Engineer Support Company, a unit headquartered in Miles City that specializes in building roads, airstrips, and other infrastructure.
“We call it ‘horizontal construction,’ so it’s all dirt work, ground work, foundation work,” said Warrant Officer Paul Green.
The unit worked on a number of projects over their three days of training. One of them was to build a new “bivouac site” at the training area – a site that other National Guard units can use to set up camp and park their vehicles while training.
“We just clear, grub and strip it – got rid of the sagebrush and junipers – and got some low spots out so the drainage is right,” said Staff Sgt. Nyle Obergfell.
On Friday, they wrapped up the work by adding a gravel parking area and finishing the grading.
“It should be a nice place for them to come and set up their tents, park their vehicles and then take advantage of the training sites here,” Obergfell said.
The unit also made improvements to a main road on the training site, making it wide enough for two full-sized tanks to pass each other.
Leaders said that project was valuable because it was more of a finished product, while they usually practice quick and rough road building.
“Not often do we get where we have a surveyed road like that and we have access to the engineers to ask questions – and then just the technicality of that project,” said Obergfell. “It was something that we’re not quite used to, but it was a great learning experience.”
The project also gave soldiers a chance to use a technologically advanced road grader, which uses automated systems to help operators easily find the correct grade. Obergfell said experience like that can be especially useful when looking for a job in civilian life.
“If a young soldier especially learns these skills and then needs work, it’s pretty easy for them to go off and say, ‘I know how to use this piece of equipment, and here’s my training,’” he said.
Members of the unit say they’re proud that the work they’re doing this week is not only helping them hone their skills, but also helping their fellow Guard members going forward.
“Those that follow us will get to use the training sites, and it helps the Guard as a whole,” said Green.
In addition to engineering, the 260th also trained in their soldiering skills at Limestone Hills. At the training area’s range, they practiced throwing live hand grenades.