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 Jan. 9.
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. The 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.
In order to execute this type of operation, the U.S. Army uses 23-foot segments of an improvised ribbon bridge that weighs approximately 20,000 pounds. These floating bridges are connected together to make a bridge spanning the width of the body of water.
“It’s been a long time since something like this has happened,” said Lt. Col. Michael Lay, 412th Theater Engineer Command. “I believe it’s about 20-plus years since we’ve put bridges down in Fort Bragg.”
Due to the lack of MRBC assets available on Fort 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,” Lay said.
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 BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. “The wet gap crossing is something I consider a nonstandard event; we don’t do it a lot.”
Massie also said they don’t always get a maneuver force to train with a MRBC that often and this is a new thing for the 1st BCT.
Since the division does not have a MRBC, Maj. Gen. James Mingus, commanding general of the 82nd Abn. Div., 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,” Lay said. “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 82nd Abn. Div. hopes to build upon this training and further enhance its capabilities during future training events.