Changing gears

Engineers to deploy on difficult mission


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Eight-month-old Sophia Parker walks around Buckner Physical Fitness Center with help from her dad, Sgt. Jesse Parker, following a deployment ceremony for nearly 100 paratroopers of the 84th Engineer Support Company (Airborne), 6th Engineer Battalion on Jan. 23 on JBER.

MIKE NESPER

Nearly 100 Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson soldiers are set to deploy in the next week or so for a nine-month tour in Afghanistan.

Their mission is anything but standard.

Typically tasked with construction — building roads, bridges, etc. — the 84th Engineer Support Company (Airborne), 6th Engineer Battalion will now be protecting such infrastructure. The 84th Engineer Support Company, whose nickname is the “Kodiaks,” will be responsible for finding and neutralizing improvised explosive devices.

The change in assignment is the first for the Kodiaks.

“They’ve had to come off of bulldozers and graters and scrapers,” company commander Cpt. Michael Carvelli said a day prior to a farewell ceremony at Buckner Physical Fitness Center on Jan. 23. “It’s a complete change of work.”

However, Carvelli said, there are some similarities.

“They’re good at operating the equipment,” he said.

The new job brought many new challenges, Carvelli said.

“You had to start from scratch in a lot of other areas,” he said.

During the ceremony, the 6th Engineer Battalion commander Lt. Col. William Conde praised the company for switching roles.

“These paratroopers did not hesitate for a moment,” he said. “I know you’re ready for this deployment.

“The Kodiaks poured their hearts and souls to ready for the fight,” Conde added.

Overall, the transition has gone smoothly, Carvelli said.

“The great thing about the military is in general you have a lot of people skilled in several areas,” he said.

For the past 10 months, Carvelli’s soldiers have been training for their new mission.

The company has a wide range of experience. For some, it will be their first tour overseas. For another solider, it will mark his eighth deployment, Carvelli said.

No matter how many times they’ve deployed, Carvelli said he told his paratroopers that no one has been to where they’re going in 2013.

“I tell them to take your experiences and meld them together,” he said.

While all deployments put soldiers in dangerous situations, the Kodiaks’ new mission does come with a greater risk.

“A lot of the same hazards are there in terms of equipment, but not explosives,” Carvelli said.

The Kodiaks’ road-clearing assignment will benefit more than just U.S. forces, Carvelli said. It also aids the Afghanistan Army, Afghan police and local civilians, he said.

Three main vehicles will be used during their deployment. The first in line, and “most survivable” is the Husky — a one-person operated vehicle that detects metal, Carvelli said.

Behind that is a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, followed by a Buffalo — which has a robotic arm for digging.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones, also support in detecting IEDs, Carvelli said.

“You have multiple sets of eyes from different aspects,” he said.

None are more important than the soldiers’, Carvelli said.

“The soldiers hold it together,” he said.

Conde expressed his faith in Carvelli, who graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in civil engineering technology, calling him the “absolute right man to lead the Kodiaks on this mission.”

Conde turned his attention to the soldiers’ families at the conclusion of his speech.

“Fear not. They will never be more prepared than right now,” he said. “They will care for each other like brothers and sisters.”

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com.

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