Prime Power School holds 'monumental' capstone
The U.S. Army Prime Power School hosted its annual Prime Power Production Specialist (12P20) course capstone this week at Training Area 246.
The three-day event is a practical examination, testing student-Soldiers attending the course here from across the country on all they have learned from the previous eight months of instruction.
The capstone is normally completed at the schoolhouse’s facility, utilizing equipment on a much smaller scale, according to Staff Sgt. Russell Gaskin, USAPPS instructor.
“This is the inaugural event at this site,” he said. “This is the biggest it’s ever been — it’s actually kind of monumental.”
Unlike past years’ capstone events, students and instructors from USAPPS’ Advanced Leader Course — who have already completed this portion of training — joined the fray, receiving leadership experience.
“For the students to put everything that they’ve learned into practice is a huge step, and then being able to take our future leaders and have them oversee work in a live fashion is just incredible,” said Sgt. 1st Class Micah Stinson, ALC instructor. “It’s a massive training enhancer.”
During the course’s final exam, students must prepare, install, maintain and operate a mobile power plant, delivering energy to a mock forward operating base, as those in their military occupational specialty are often required to do in the field.
As part of the initial set up, they implement a grounding grid, ensuring any fault in the electrical system or inclement weather does not result in loss of functionality or operation.
Like a one-stop-shop electric company, Prime Power Soldiers are further tasked to test the efficacy of the grounding grid, make changes as needed, lay wire, conduct pre-operational safety checks, run power to mock destinations, oversee power distribution and adapt to severely problematic circumstances.
On the third and final day of the capstone, students arrive to find a wrench in their plans — the lines have been cut, and intentionally so, by none other than the instructors.
Gaskin said the training is meant to teach Soldiers to recover from major setbacks.
“We cut their high-voltage cable on Thursday morning,” he said. “They have to come out here and realize that. They (have to) go through all the protocols and processes to make the site safe and repair that cable.”
And not only is such a scenario in the field very possible, he said, but it requires action of the utmost urgency.
“This is similar to how it would look in real life,” he said. “It depends on who’s down the line — sometimes if it’s a critical power site, usually they have local back-up (power), but it’s all hands on deck.”
Sgt. Jakenya Hill, who came to the USAPPS course from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, said the training at Fort Leonard Wood is invaluable as it cannot be done anywhere else.
“I think it’s great training, especially with the amount they’ve put into training us, and it’s a year long, so we’re getting a lot of opportunities that a lot of people are not granted,” he said. “We’re taking it humbly and we’re happy to be here.”
He said skills learned in this course — and put on display in the capstone — will benefit him for years, even after he decides to leave the Army.
“One of the key things about our MOS is that we learn, we become generally (educated) … in a wide spectrum of power operations,” Hill added while testing grounding equipment. “Whereas in the civilian world, this one job, doing one test, may be a single job itself.”
His classmate, Sgt. Samuel Ball, traveled for training from Fort Irwin, California, located deep in the Mojave Desert. He said handling the wires requires steady hands.
“You got to get a little surgical with it,” Ball said as he stripped a thick wire, carefully avoiding cutting into it. “If you nick any of that gray area right there and it’s not perfectly smooth, it’ll blow out.”
He said he feels proud to share a similar career with his father.
“We’re getting so much more in-depth training than most do,” he said. “It’s interesting to see now what I’m actually capable of doing. My dad’s an electrician, and I never got to work with him enough to learn a whole lot, so now I can understand what he’s talking about.”
Soldiers who successfully complete the capstone attend additional skill identifying training where they enter one of three specializations within their trade: mechanical, electrical or instrumentation maintenance.
“We use fossil prime movers, so large diesel engines,” Gaskin said. “The mechanical maintenance side is the maintenance of the engine … anything involved in mechanics, fluid dynamics, setting up your fuel farm.”
He explained how the specialties differ.
“Electricians, of course, they focus in and they go down the rabbit hole of transformation, actual operation of the alternator,” he added. “The instrumentation guys — it’s 2020, everything is digital, everything is run by a chip — so those guys really hone in on digital and solid-state control circuits, protected devices, monitoring, a lot of keyboard and laptop work.”
Gaskin said he felt proud of the capstone’s scale and success.
“This is why I chose this assignment – to improve the quality of future Prime Power operators,” he said. “Whatever mission they have from now on, I just want to do my part in always improving that.”