Citizen-Soldiers get real-world training on LSU-A project

By Spc. Noshoba Davis, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office

ALEXANDRIA, La. – Engineers from the Louisiana National Guard’s 225th Engineer Brigade are using a construction project at Louisiana State University at Alexandria (LSUA) to gain hands-on experience during their annual training. The Soldiers are building a 1.5-acre pond and three new rugby pitches, allowing them to become more proficient with their equipment while giving back to the community.

“We are so delighted that they are here learning,” said Dr. Dan Howard, LSUA chancellor. “We are benefiting, the taxpayers benefit, the students benefit and our country benefits.”

The pond is part of a new “Icon Corner,” which will act as an entry way to the university. The finished product will include fountains and a sign with the university’s name.

“It means a lot for us to be giving back to the community and being able to conduct our training,” said Capt. Michael D’Aguiar, commander of the 844th Engineer Company. The 844th just returned from a year-long deployment to Kuwait last summer.

“They’re out here serving their communities. That’s what they signed up for, to get the training and give back to their actual community that they live and work in. It’s a win, win, win for everybody all the way around,” he said.

During the excavation process, the engineers use different types of equipment such as bulldozers, graders, hydraulic excavators, loaders, compactors and numerous 10 and 20 ton dump trucks. A project of this scale allows the newer Soldiers to receive quality training on the equipment.

“My operators are getting excellent time behind the wheel,” said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Nutt, of Ruston, the noncommissioned officer in charge for the 844th. “We’re rotating them in and out of different pieces, and getting them more proficient on their actual job as equipment operators.”

The 844th just concluded their two-week annual training period, they were replaced by Soldiers from the 921st Engineer Company, allowing a fresh group of Soldiers the opportunity to pitch in.

“This gives us a chance to see how proficient our younger Soldiers are on the equipment,” said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Greer, noncommissioned officer in charge for the 921st Engineer Company. “This also gives us a chance to get them licensed and become more familiar with their capabilities operating equipment.”

To date, the Soldiers have moved more than 15,000 cubic yards to the first and second rugby pitches, where it is being compacted and raised to grade. The three rugby pitches are being built to make the school more attractive to international students that may not have otherwise considered attending.

“I feel great that when I drive by, I can say I helped make that,” said Spc. Tamekia Knowles, a heavy equipment operator with the 844th Engineer Company.

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