Local National Guard unit changes mission

by: KEVIN GABOURY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The Prineville unit of the Oregon Army National Guard officially changed its designation to vertical construction engineering in two ceremonies on April 6.

The Prineville unit of the Oregon Army National Guard recently changed its mission from combat engineering to vertical engineering and the shift will provide guardsmen with training in carpentry, electrical engineering, and plumbing.
   "The army overall is doing some transitioning, so they're moving units around and placing them where they would best fit the needs of the state and the nation," Sergeant First Class Shawn DeSanto said of the change. "It's not the entire National Guard; it's just individual units based on what the military needs."
   The commander of newly created Detachment 1/234 Vertical Engineers is Second Lieutenant Kresimir E. Waite, who was promoted from platoon leader to detachment commander in an April 6 ceremony.
   Training for the new skills takes a different time period for each and what job a soldier will take on depends on his or her Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). Plumbers require about six weeks of training, carpenters about five weeks and electricians about four weeks.
   In the Prineville Guard's previous function as Company E 3/116 CAV, soldiers were trained in demolitions tactics, including minefield clearing and "breaching," which involves exploding obstacles.
   "Now that we've changed over to vertical construction, instead of blowing things up, we're building things up," DeSanto said.
   However, demolitions are not completely out of the picture.
   "Because we're inherently engineers, we still have the capability to do some of the combat engineering role," DeSanto said. "We still have the knowledge of demolitions, so it would become a secondary for us instead of a primary."
   DeSanto pointed out that the change will generate several benefits, not only for guardsmen, but for the community as well.
   "There are several unions here in the state and I've been told that they will accept all military duty," he said. "If the soldier comes in and he does the drill one weekend a month, the time that he spends on drill will contribute toward apprenticeship programs and journeyman licensing. This means less time that the individual has to spend on journeyman licensing and things like that, so he can get qualified on the side."
   Under its new function, the National Guard will also be assisting on a variety of community projects and among these are re-building the Ochoco Viewpoint and helping construct a pole barn at the Crook County Fairgrounds.
   "There are a whole bunch of projects that we can assist them with, which are free labor for those guys, and we get training out of it too," DeSanto said.
   Aside from the additional training, guardsmen will also receive monetary bonuses. New enlistments can receive up to a $20,000 bonus. Prior servicemen and women can get an extra $15,000 and current soldiers can receive an additional $2,000 conversion bonus for switching from one job to another.
   "It's going to put extra money in the soldiers' pockets," DeSanto said. "Plus all the training on how they can apply these new skills to the civilian side. A lot of the guys are really happy about it."
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