They've been to Iraq, helping to win the war on terrorism, but now they're back in the field to sharpen their skills. The 11th Engineering Battalion is on the range at Fort Stewart this week for training.
Tossing a grappling hook across a pretend mine field to clear the way for the members of his squad, Pvt. Sean Dewberry is learning to throw where no man has thrown before. This is his first month in the Army, and he's hearing war stories from the veterans of operation Iraqi Freedom. "I'm the outsider, it's a little bit intimidating but when I get as much experience as them, it will be all right," he said.
In squads of six to eight people, the members of the 11th Engineering Battalion practice what soldiers have done since Normandy and what they just did in Iraq. Despite new technology, they do their job the old fashioned way, crawling through the dirt to blaze the trail into battle.
"We provide mobility for the rest of the task force to get there," explained company commander Capt. James Lockridge. "If you don't have engineers, you're going to have a real tough time."
One of their biggest challenges is bringing in new soldiers like Dewberry, over and over. The battalion has lost almost a third of its troops since Iraq. You could compare the Army to a baseball or football team. Even if you win the World Series or Super Bowl, you won't have the exact same players next season.
"People come and go," said squad leader Sgt. Nicholas Kluesner. "You've just got to roll with the punches and keep them training."
That's because they know the next trip to combat is not a matter of if but when.
Each squad must qualify on the ranges before they can fight in future battles. Those squads will return to the field in a few weeks for battalion-sized training.