National Guard soldiers from Monett and Pierce City in the 276th Engineering Company saw a wide range of service during 2009. Sgt. Derek Acheson, training non-commissioned officer with the 276th, recalled highlights as the new year began.
Twenty local Guard soldiers had no state emergency duty last year but did head to West Plains from Jan. 29 to Feb. 5, 2009, to help with a major ice and snow storm. Soldiers helped remove debris and fallen trees so that emergency crews could move in. Door-to-door health and welfare checks were also made going door to door.
At the end of July local soldiers went to Camp Crowder in Neosho for their Army warrior testing. In addition to military drills, soldiers helped on several camp improvement projects, including making building repairs and constructing new targets for the firing range.
Preparations continued throughout the year for the upcoming annual training mission to Guatemala. Acheson went to Guatemala in October 2009 to do a site survey.
"They had typical Central American roads, nice and bumpy," Acheson said.
Soldiers will be going to the community of Chi Chi Patte on the Caribbean side. Plans call for completing a two-room schoolhouse. Soldiers will use the Royal Building system, Acheson said, using walls that snap together where concrete will be poured inside hollow walls. The structure will be topped with a metal roof.
The 276th will be under the U.S. Army South Command. Capt. Eric Spencer, the company commander last year, and Acheson joined soldiers from the 35th Engineering Brigade in San Antonio, Texas, for Army South's week-long final planning conference for the mission. Acheson was impressed by the complexity of the undertaking, and subsequent planning efforts continued through December.
Fifteen soldiers from the 276th went to Fort Leonard Wood in November 2009 for their annual heavy weapons training. They concentrated on tripod-mounted 50-caliber machine guns and the MK 19 grenade launcher.
Other soldiers from the 276th joined members of the 117th Asphalt Team at the Monett Armory for training as part of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) team in Oklahoma City, Okla.
"Most of the soldiers enjoyed the CERFP training," Acheson said. "It's another portion of what the Guard can do in emergencies."
Troop strength in the 276th has remained fairly steady over the past year, Acheson said.
"We have ebb and flow of personnel. It's been pretty good. We can always use more," Acheson added.