The 92nd Engineer Battalion’s soldiers are jacks of all trades. These engineers, who proudly refer to themselves as "Black Diamonds," construct and maintain much of the army’s infrastructure in the field.
"Our motto is ‘Essayons,’ which is French for ‘Let us try,’" said Capt. Tim Boswell, 92nd Engineer Battalion executive officer.
The battalion’s companies are composed of carpenters, plumbers and electricians. They are tasked with repairing roads and air strips and they build base camps, guard towers and troop housing.
The battalion is currently at the end of a 17-day training exercise on the Fort Stewart range.
The engineers are readying themselves for the army’s Advise and Assist mission when they deploy to Iraq next April. This will be the post tenant unit’s fourth deployment to support Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
The engineers previously deployed to Iraq in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The battalion also deployed to Afghanistan in 2001 for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).
Lt. Col. Diana Holland, the battalion’s commander, explained the 92nd will bring its soldiers’ knowledge and diverse expertise to the mission in Iraq.
"We will work for the corps," Holland said, referring to the multi-national corps in Iraq. "We are eligible to provide support to everybody that is in Iraq."
The battalion will help with base maintenance and upgrades, from adding showers and latrines to expanding and improving water and sewer systems.
Holland said the battalion also will partner with Iraqi engineers, teaching them needed skills so they can perform the work themselves.
The battalion commander said the field training will prepare soldiers to be ready for anything they may encounter in Iraq. Engineers will not be confined to base camp, she said.
"They have to be able to secure themselves and react to the enemy," Holland said. Then, they can move on to the next project, whether it’s building a guard tower or repairing a road damaged by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device), she said.
1st Sgt. Richard Schauland, the senior enlisted advisor to the company commander, said army engineers also had to cap many of the culverts when he last deployed to OIF in 2008.
"We had to do culvert denials so the insurgents couldn’t place IEDs in them," Schauland said. "It caused some problems with the farmers."
The sergeant said the battalion first tried to put wire over the culverts to deter insurgents from placing explosives in them, but it didn’t work.
"They still got into the culverts," he said.
During the exercise, 92nd Battalion soldiers came "under fire" during simulated attacks by the 385th Military Police Battalion rear detachment. The MPs portrayed insurgents during the engineer battalion’s exercise.
They also underwent CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) defense training, to be prepared for whatever may come at them in Iraq.
Sgt. Joyce Bethea taught her fellow soldiers how to operate and store gas masks and protective gear. Battalion soldiers also learned what to do when there are casualties from chemical or biological weapons and how to medically evacuate the injured.
Soldiers are trained to protect themselves from "blood, blister and gas," meaning toxic materials that can enter the bloodstream, burn the skin or be inhaled, she explained.
"Biological is the most dangerous because it can’t be controlled," Bethea said.
The engineers continued to complete various projects they had begun on post during the exercise, as well as adding some other construction projects they would typically be assigned to do in Iraq. Some of the engineers built a seven-foot high concrete block wall, or CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit), while out in the field. Others upgraded an airstrip so it could handle C-130 aircraft emergency landings.
Earlier in the year, the battalion built a headquarters structure for the 3rd ID to use during its Mission Readiness Exercise.
"It was a really big effort," said Capt. Matthew McCarthy, of the 92nd. "It had tiered stadium seating and room for 50 people to work on computers." The structure also had private offices for high-ranking commanding officers, including Brig. Gen. Tony Cucolo.