Forward Engineer Support Team Trains Above and Beyond
by CPT Shai-Lin YnaCaY

deployed its Forward Engineer Support Team-Advance (FEST-A) to Aviano, Italy, from 9–21 September 2012 in order to support AFRICOM’s annual joint exercise, Judicious Response 2012 (JR12), and also to perform separate missions to exercise the team’s ability to provide technical engineering support in a field environment. During this exercise, the team also conducted combined training with the Italian Army Engineers and Aviation. This exercise was a huge success in preparing the team for a future deployment. The Europe District FEST-A is an eight-person deployable organization ready to serve in austere conditions in order to provide technical engineer support. The volunteer team consists of civil, electrical, mechanical, topographic, and environmental engineers as well as those with experience in project management and construction. All members are volunteers with the FEST-A and do not include the entire roster of volunteers we have. For this exercise, the personnel were chosen based on their availability, engineering background, and training received. The different training requirements will be discussed later in this article. FEST training is focused on mission-essential tasks and the technical proficiencies on the equipment and software utilized by the FEST. This exercise gave the team

members an opportunity to truly enhance their expertise on the equipment and provide technical engineering support all while working under a stressful environment with limited resources. The FEST-A deployed to Aviano Air Base on 9 September 2012 to support AFRICOM’s JR12. Within 24 hours, the team started receiving missions from its higher headquarters, Joint Forces Engineer Command (JFEC) stationed at the Warrior Preparation Center in Kaiserslautern-Einsiedlerhof, Germany. Because of very limited non-secure and secure internet access, the FEST-A experienced extreme time delays when transferring information between the JFEC and FEST. Though not optimal, the delays were a realistic example of how the FEST-A would exchange secure information if deployed to a more austere environment with no communications infrastructure. Initially, the JFEC and FEST-A relied heavily on the USACE Reachback Operations Center (UROC) to exchange secure data for missions associated with the JR12 portion of the exercise. JR12 was cancelled because of real-world events, however; the FEST-A continued its field exercise, but the UROC secure data transfer was no longer necessary for the remaining unclassified missions. In addition, the exercise controllers collocated with the FEST-A at Aviano Air Base simulated the JFEC, which sped up the time to receive and respond to missions and requests for information (RFIs). This allowed the FEST-A to focus more on the missions

received and to improve their timelines for completing projects. The FEST-A successfully completed several missions. The first mission was to assess the capacity of two damaged bridges in Kenya, Africa, using imagery and information gathered from the UROC capability. The next mission was to conduct a ground and aerial route reconnaissance between Aviano and Vicenza using the Automated Route Reconnaissance Kit (ARRK). The ground portion of the recon assessed and compared multiple routes in the Vicenza and Aviano local areas connecting the military bases with the main highway or autostrada. For the aerial portion of the recon, the Italian Army’s 27th Aviation Group flew the engineers in a UH-1 helicopter along the autostrada connecting the two cities to determine if there were any conditions or obstructions that would require a more detailed ground inspection. While in the air, the team also trained on methods of assessing simulated flood damage to infrastructure and bridges along the Adriatic coastline and the Tagliamento River. The team received two additional route reconnaissance missions between Aviano Air Base and the nearby CellinaMeduna Local Training Area (LTA). Both recons required the team to conduct on-site bridge assessments and to identify other bridges that require detailed inspection. The FEST-A developed two different base camps in the Celina-Medunda LTA. The first base camp was designed to support a 4500-person Stryker Cavalry Regiment with housing, dining
FaCinG PaGE: The 3rd Engineer Regiment who acted as the security forces for our missions and the Europe District Fest with the JFEC members and exercise planners behind them. PHOTO BY PAULO BOVO

facilities, and other basic living requirements and for equipment parking and maintenance. The second camp was designed to support a 600-person aviation battalion at initial standards. All route and base camp reconnaissance missions conducted in the Celina-Meduna LTA were coordinated with security provided by the Italian Army’s 3rd Engineer Regiment. Prior to every reconnaissance, the FEST-A and Italian engineers conducted convoy briefings and conducted the missions as if in a hostile environment. The final mission was for the FEST-A to plan an air and route reconnaissance collection plan to ensure military vehicle movement on key routes in Uganda, Kenya, and South Sudan. This plan was developed using maps in the TeleEngineering Toolkit (TETK)—the software that runs the ARRK—and from actual data from previous route reconnaissance missions. The FEST-A received several missions with hard timelines that all could not

have been completed without the equipment and training we received prior to this exercise. Several pieces of equipment and different types of software were essential to the success of the FEST-A’s mission. The equipment includes the ARRK with TETK software; the It-Knows-Everything (IKE) with Geospatial Assessment Tool for Engineering Reachback (GATER); Tele-engineering Communication Equipment-Deployable (TCE-D); the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN), and the Theater Construction Management System (TCMS). The ARRK, which comes in a ground or air configuration, combines a toughbook laptop computer, GPS, camera, microphone, gyroscope, and 3D accelerometer. The ARRK records the route via capturing snapshots using a small camera mounted on the vehicle windshield and also calculates slope, curvature, location, acceleration, and voice recordings. This data is

converted by a member of the FEST to create a route reconnaissance report in accordance with the FM 3-34. Using the TETK, the user also can scroll through the stored data types to instantly locate specific features along the route. The IKE with GATER is used by deployed personnel to collect field data such as infrastructure, environmental, and real estate assessments. Once the data is collected by the IKE, GATER synchronizes that data to a desktop, then to an online data repository that allows online GIS mapping and visualization capability. The FEST-A uses the IKE for the bridge assessments and to collect infrastructure assessment data of the land and buildings used for the base camps. The TCE-D and BGAN were used daily for internet access and to receive and send secure data through UROC to the JFEC. Managing the UROC requests for information was a critical task for the FEST-A and one that was successfully met dur-


STANLEY YOUNG – Civil Engineer MIKE GRAHAM – Computer Specialist SHARI VALENTE – Management Analyst ASTRID zERVAS – Manpower Analyst CPT JAMES RICHARDS – Mechanical Engineer






LEFT: Tim Nauman and Astrid Zervas use the IKE to assess the Entry Control Point. The author discusses security with the Italian Security Forces. PHOTO BY PAULO BOVO

BELOW: SPC Elizabeth Monge and Mike Graham set up the TCE-D with BGAN. PHOTO BY PAULO BOVO

ing this exercise. Whenever the FEST-A encountered a problem with a mission or with the equipment that could not be solved within their own capabilities, they relied on the UROC for assistance in answering technical questions, providing imagery, and aiding with equipment and software issues. Prior to this exercise, each FEST-A member completed skills, software, and equipment training in one or more areas including the Base Camp Development Planning (BCDP) course; TCMS; IKE with GATER; TETK/ARRK; TCE-D and BGAN. In addition, during the first two days of the exercise, UROC provided remote bridge reconnaissance training for the degreed engineers using the TCE-D. Only one team member has completed FEST-A TCMS training, but some others have had experience with the TCMS program which is essential in base BCDP. The FEST-A NCOIC, a certified FFE equipment trainer, was able to help and train the other team members in using the ARRK, IKE, and TCED equipment and processing the data. Each team member greatly enhanced his or her knowledge and skills using the different types of equipment and had a large part in developing the comprehensive and detailed mission products that are evidence of the exercise’s success. A well-trained team is important for this FEST-A because of the possibility of a future deployment. Because not all current members may be available to deploy in the future, the FEST-A undergoes continual recruiting for new volunteers and will conduct future training exercises similar to this one. To better prepare for a future



exercise or deployment, the FEST-A developed standard operating procedures and pre-deployment, deployment, and re-deployment checklists based on their experience at Aviano Air Base. These will be available on the REDi FEST Portal along with the final exercise report. By completing a very successful training exercise, the FEST-A not only had an opportunity to enhance technical skills but also is more prepared for a future deployment. The checklists and standard operating procedures developed from this exercise will be shared across the FFE community for any FEST to use as part of their preparation for an exercise or deployment. A training exercise similar to this one is recommend for any newly established FESTs. The range of different missions, the fast pace, and the experience of using security forces

while conducting the reconnaissance helps the FEST-A members understand the challenges they could face and how to overcome them.


CPT SHAI-LIN YNACAY is a 2004 graduate of the United States Military Academy. She attended OBC and ECCC at Fort Leonard Wood, MO, and has been deployed on year-long rotations to Afghanistan and Iraq. She holds a master’s in engineering management from the University of Science and Technology, Rolla, MO. She commanded HHC, 18th EN BDE, from 2008–2010, and is now stationed at Ramstein, Germany, and works in USACE, Europe District.

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