Army Shows Off Portable Bridge

The 459th Engineer Company of the U.S. Army Reserves practiced its bridge-building skills Friday on the Ohio River.

The New Martinsville-based unit is scheduled to continue its capabilities demonstrations for the public today at the boat launching ramp in Moundsville. While practicing its proficiency, the specialized unit is also hoping to recruit at the same time.

“We’re looking for good folks interested in joining,” said Capt. Charles Bell, commander.

Recruiting assistance will be available to answer questions about the unit and the different specialties available within the organization. The final timed drill will start at 1 p.m.

At the same time, his teams elevates its skills in the event they are needed.

“We do this at least three or four times each year as training and an exercise to gain proficiency,” Bell said. “This is a decorated unit and is the only unit in the army that has put a ribbon bridge in under hostile fire since World War II. That was in Iraq.”

Bell said his reserve company is capable of assembling a six-section pontoon, or ribbon bridge, in less than 15 minutes. He said sections are rolled into the water, caught by boats, then attached together.

“It’s definitely a process,” Bell said. “It requires a lot of quality people. We have to stay perfected.”

Bell noted the fast-running Ohio River was a good test for his troops. The bridges are capable of supporting tanks. They can be of any length to span the width of any river or can be used to ferry vehicles. He said the 459th has enough pontoons or bays to cross the river, at the Moundsville site, but doing that requires more people and is not necessary to hone skills. Five bays are required for a standard test, but he requires a six-bay raft to be above standard.