Engineer Soldiers get ’historic’ training opportunity on Fort Leonard Wood: Museum partners with 5th Engineers to move artifacts

Brian Hill
Fort Leonard Wood
Horizontal construction engineer and bridge crewmember Soldiers with the 5th Engineer Battalion use one of their cranes to move a 23-ton M41 Walker Bulldog light tank May 11. The tank was on static display at the southeast corner of Iowa and Minnesota avenues. As they work to divest excess historic artifacts, museum staff here requested assistance from the battalion, which gains valuable training experience in exchange. Photo by Troy Morgan, U.S. Army Engineer Museum director.

A partnership here between the John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex and the 5th Engineer Battalion is providing training opportunities for Soldiers while helping to satisfy an Army Museums directive to divest excess historic artifacts, including several static vehicle and artillery display items across the installation.

As horizontal construction engineer and bridge crewmember Soldiers honed their skills on equipment while moving a 23-ton M41 Walker Bulldog light tank May 11 at the southeast corner of Iowa and Minnesota avenues, Sgt. Zachary Reed, squad leader for the project, called it a win-win for everyone involved.

“This is great training for these Soldiers, and I’m glad we get to help out the museum at the same time,” he said.

Troy Morgan, director of the U.S. Army Engineer Museum here, approached battalion leadership about this opportunity when the Army directive mandated museum staff determine which artifacts were historically significant and which could be deemed excess — 25 items, including tanks and artillery pieces, are being moved with the help of 5th Engineer Soldiers.

“The condensed mission of Army Museums is to educate, inspire and preserve,” Morgan said. “We do this by collecting and preserving limited and significant artifacts and using these in Soldier training programs, public outreach programs and museum exhibits.”

Morgan added the excess items will be offered to the broader Army as organizational historic material. Those not needed by the Army will be processed through the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command donations program, which allows towns, private museums and selected social organizations — such as Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion posts — to request an excess item to display in a city park or in front of a building.

“This allows us to focus our limited resources on Soldier education programs and public outreach while maintaining our core collection of historically significant artifacts,” Morgan said. “And those vehicles which are excess to the needs of the Army will be offered to municipalities and selected non-profits.”

With many different types of terrain surrounding the artifacts to be moved — along with the variance in size, shape and weight of the pieces themselves — the engineer Soldiers are getting a good sampling of training on their equipment, said Spc. Mario Andrade, one of three horizontal construction engineer Soldiers in his unit qualified to operate the 60-ton crane they have in their inventory.

“The biggest challenge is getting (the crane) level,” he said. “If we can’t get it level, we can’t do the lift.”

Andrade added the training is particularly effective due to the different challenges each location poses for the engineers.

“It’s a great learning experience,” he said. “As engineers, we like to solve problems. Out here, there are power lines, traffic that needs to be diverted — there’s soft ground that makes our crane shift. It’s a fun challenge moving these historic tanks and artillery — we’ve been taking a ton of pictures.”