249th ENGINEER BATTALION (PRIME POWER)
The 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power) planned and executed its first battalion-level field training exercise (FTX) in recent history. The event took place in March at Fort A.P. Hill in northern Virginia and afforded the “Black Lions” an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency in a multi-echelon training environment. The training scenario offered Soldiers an opportunity for a real-world application of the skills and proficiency needed in a uniquely demanding mission.
The 249th Engineer Battalion is a multi-component unit and the only medium-voltage power and distribution unit in the Army. As such, it possesses a majority of the Army’s Prime Power production specialists (military occupational specialty [MOS] 12P) and the full complement of the U.S. Army Reserves linemen (MOS 12Q). Due to its unique mission, the 249th consistently operates under challenging conditions that are unknown to other engineer units or U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) districts. These challenges include geographic dispersion among units in order to provide regional support, the lack of traditional tiered-higher headquarter support systems (brigade and division), and a multi-component composition (active and Reserve forces). The battalion aptly overcame many of those challenges to deliver this superior training event.
Due to its unique nature, many Soldiers in the Black Lions have spent most of their career within the battalion. Of that population, not one of them had ever participated in an exercise as large and complex as the March FTX. The Black Lions once again demonstrated their ability to adapt to mission requirements, overcome complex problems, and provide quality assessments for civilian partners at home. This exercise proved a tremendous undertaking and honed the organization’s ability to execute its very unique mission under the most difficult conditions.
Army (Contingency) Operations
The 249th Engineer Battalion trains its personnel to fill the persistent and dynamic requirements of the Army for electrical power in locations across the globe. To ensure the team remains ready to deliver world-class support, Prime Power production specialists train on the employment of the Deployable Power Generation and Distribution System (DPGDS) to provide medium-voltage production and distribution in even the most austere environments. Though platoon-sized elements at the company level typically execute these missions, Battalion Headquarters chose to conduct this as a consolidated training event to test the unit’s scalability while also exercising crucial staff functions and mission command.
Once validated to operate by the battalion, a Prime Power team can expect to deploy across the globe to provide world-class power and electrical expertise.
National Response Framework
The 249th Engineer Battalion supports disaster response operations as a part of Emergency Support Function #3. This mission includes performing electrical assessments of critical infrastructure and allows for the timely installation of power-generation assets to preserve life and restore civil governance. To prepare for this task, the Black Lions conduct real-world training on nominated facilities that are part of a local government’s critical facility restoration plan. During this FTX in particular, Prime Power production specialists provided actual assessments to local and state facilities in Virginia, enabling the commonwealth’s readiness. Water treatment plants, freshwater pumps, and buildings designated for emergency operations and housing were among the facilities supported.
The Defense Department’s Electrical Experts
In addition to supporting Army operations worldwide with power production, Prime Power production specialists train to deploy as electrical power subject-matter experts, aiding in planning, maintenance, assessment, and testing of electrical systems. In this capacity, Black Lions Soldiers conduct a wide range of tasks, from healthand-welfare inspections of facilities and planning life cycle power usage of camps and bases, to recommending courses of action for contracted power requirements.
Best Warrior Competition
To ensure their technicians remain ready to support the full range of Army operations, the 249th Engineer Battalion places a similar focus on excelling at the tactical tasks expected of any Soldier. A team of Black Lions proved this by competing in the 2019 National Capital Region Best Warrior Competition, an event pitting Soldiers against each other to test their mastery of warrior skills and level of physical fitness. During the competition, contestants performed written and physical assessments that evaluated their proficiency in common warrior tasks and battle drills. The expectation for Black Lions to perform as both subject-matter experts and U.S. Army Soldiers makes them a unique and crucial organization within USACE. n
For more information on the 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), visit: www.usace.army.mil/249th-Engineer-Battalion/ and www.facebook.com/249thEngineerBattalion/.