Using back-to-back two-week annual training periods, 90 Soldiers with the Wisconsin National Guard's 829th Engineer Company (Vertical) and 824th Concrete Section worked to build a shower facility at Fort McCoy's Improved Tactical Training Base (ITTB) Freedom.
The 829th troops participating in the project are from northern Wisconsin. This included two 829th platoons assigned to Ashland and one 829th platoon and headquarters staff along with 824th Soldiers assigned to Spooner. Both locations include carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and other Army engineer specialties.
"The project began with a bare patch of ground," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Fiecke, project noncommissioned officer (NCO) in charge for the 829th. The Soldiers first graded and prepared the ground for a foundation, then dug trenches and installed plumbing and electrical rough-ins.
"For the foundation, we laid in almost 1,200 concrete blocks," Fiecke said. "Then the project just kind of grew up from there."
By the end of June, the Soldiers also built the walls and roof and installed sheathing and roofing. "It was a fully sealed structure when we were done [with training]," Fiecke said.
When fully completed, the shower facility will have 42 shower stalls — 18 for women and 24 for men. Executive Officer 1st Lt. Jessica Burch said the next unit to work on the project will have a good starting point.
"As a project like this continues, you have to keep updating blueprints and plans," Burch said. "It is pretty crucial to the installation and the maintenance plan for the facility. Though we left this project unfinished, the next group that comes in will be able to look at the plans and run with it to the next completion level."
Troop projects are part of annual planned improvements at the installation and provide valuable training for engineer units, said Troop Projects Coordinator Larry Morrow with the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works.
"This work helps improve Fort McCoy training ranges and quality-of-life programs and helps the troops training at the installation fine-tune their military occupational specialty (MOS) skills," Morrow said.
Burch said the training opportunity went well for the Soldiers.
"At an experience level, we're more than 50 percent manned with new troops, so we had a huge learning curve as some Soldiers are building on their MOS skills," Burch said.
Fiecke added, "A project like this also is one of the few times where everyone participating gets to do their primary skill and cross-train on other skills. This project provided a good opportunity for those doing carpentry and masonry as well as plumbing and electrical work."
Burch said Soldiers also enjoyed the teamwork.
"We were working with teams of mixed platoons, so that was challenging at first," Burch said. "But in this process, you quickly learn each other's strengths and weaknesses. Everyone got into a groove pretty quickly once work started."
Sgt. 1st Class Brian Lintonen, NCO in charge of the second rotation of 829th training, said the support from Fort McCoy staff was excellent in helping his unit have a successful annual training opportunity.
"This team performed extremely well and did a great job," Lintonen said. "This success is possible because the Fort McCoy staff provides very good support and always is helpful. It's something we really appreciate every time we come here to train."
In addition to building the shower facility at ITTB Freedom, the engineers made repairs to the shower facility at ITTB Liberty on North Post. "There had been a big water washout underneath the (foundation) that was fixed, and some plumbing repair work also was completed," Fiecke said.
Col. David O'Donahue, 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Sullivan, brigade command sergeant major, visited with 829th Soldiers while work was being completed. O'Donahue said the project was a perfect fit for the unit to take on.
"This is a project where you can practice your MOS and build something that is going to last a long, long time ... I've been an engineer for a long time, and these are the kinds of projects you like because you know what you build will be around for years and years supporting Soldiers," O'Donahue said.
Morrow appreciated all the work provided by the unit.
"With all the work they have done, we could possibly have this building for ready use in fiscal year 2017," Morrow said.