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Fort Bragg’s wet gap operation creates new training objective

Fort Bragg’s wet gap operation creates new training objective

Story by SGT Gin-Sophie De Bellotte on 01/11/2019

FORT BRAGG, N.C. Paratroopers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division successfully performed a wet gap crossing with the help of the 502nd Multi-Role Bridge Company (MRBC), 19th Engineer Battalion, at MacArthur Lake, Fort Bragg, N.C., on Jan. 9, 2019.

A wet gap crossing involves rapidly building a bridge over a body of water to allow for a unit to advance its equipment, thereby extending its operational reach during a fight.

In order to execute this type of operation, the U.S. Army uses 23-foot improvised ribbon bridge segments that weigh approximately 20,000 pounds. These floating bridges are connected together to make a bridge that spans the width of the body of water.”

“It’s been a long time since something like this has happened,” said Lt. Col. Michael Lay, a 412th Theater Engineer Command, Engineer Officer. “I believe it’s about twenty-plus years since we’ve put bridges down in Ft. Bragg.”

Due to the lack of MRBC assets available on Ft. Bragg, the division staff networked and coordinated with multiple agencies to complete the exercise.

“The reason we need float bridging is because we can’t swim our vehicles,” said Lt. Col. Lay.

Each Soldier played a key role in ensuring the crossing was conducted efficiently and safely throughout the operation.

“The operation showcased the complexity of a wet gap crossing,” said Lt. Col. Douglas Massie, commander of the 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “The wet gap crossing is something I consider a nonstandard event, we don’t do it a lot.”

Lt. Col. Massie said, they don’t always get a maneuver force to train with a MRBC that often and this is a new thing for the 1 BCT.

Since the division does not have a MRBC, the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. James Mingus, identified this as a gap in the division’s training objectives.

“This operation allowed Battalion and Brigade command team operational planners to see and understand what it takes and how complex it is to do a wet gap crossing,” said Lt. Col. Lay. “They’re a lot of important factors to consider, so when these planners do their planning they need to understand what really happens right here at the water and that’s what this operation gives them.”

The wet gap crossing exercise provided training opportunities for the leaders in the 82nd Abn. Div. regarding the complexity, synchronization and coordination required to accomplish an operation of this scale. The 82nd Abn. Div. hopes to build upon this training and further enhance its capabilities during future training events.

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