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The Art of Asphalting 
Members of the 189th Engineer Team (Asphalt) use a paving machine  
Members of the 189th Engineer Team (Asphalt), Massachusetts Army National Guard, use a paving machine to pave a parking lot at the new shoot house on Camp Edwards, Mass., April 30, 2009. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James C. Lally)
By Army Sgt. James C. Lally, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs 

, Mass. Using asphalt rollers, shovels and a paving machine, Army National Guard engineers installed a parking lot at the new shoot house on Camp Edwards, Mass., during their 2009 annual training. 

The primary mission of the 189th Engineer Team (Asphalt) is to build and maintain roads and airfields in a combat environment.

To hone their skills at this year’s AT, they transformed a patch of dirt into a paved parking lot at the new shoot house, patched the parking lot at the post maintenance facility and filled various potholes on Camp Edwards, April 30, 2009. 

In previous years the unit concentrated on heavy construction equipment training, however, this year the Soldiers laid asphalt. Sgt. 1st Class David Dixon, the construction equipment supervisor with the 189th said, “This is the first time that they have laid asphalt. The Soldiers don’t actually lay asphalt at engineer school so paving parking lots and fixing potholes is good training for them.”

“Sgt. Bryan Ebbs was the only Soldier in the unit who had any prior experience with asphalt and he taught his fellow Soldiers the tricks of the trade,” said Dixon.

Soldiers learned that there was a lot more to asphalting than just operating equipment. “It takes a lot of hands-on work with shovels and lutes to make sure that there will be no low spots in the asphalt and that all the seems are rolled out level. Asphalting is an art; once the asphalt is rolled there is no way to correct any mistakes,” said Dixon.

The team is mostly made up of heavy construction equipment operators and asphalt equipment operators but they also have some support personnel that get their hands dirty. Pvt. Javier Maria, a human resources specialist attached to the 189th learned how to operate asphalt equipment. Maria said, “It’s good hands on experience, I like it better than PowerPoint.”

While the team pounded the pavement flat, heavy equipment operators traveled to and from a local supplier in Falmouth to pick up loads of asphalt. The unit’s labor intensive task was not just hard on the Soldiers but also on the moving parts of their equipment.

Staff Sgt. Troy A. Knowles, senior construction equipment repairer, attached to the 189th has been getting his hands dirty fixing trucks and heavy equipment for the Guard for more than 14 years. Knowles said, “The operational tempo creates a lot of work for us, there is a lot of wear and tear on the equipment but it’s stemmed because they know the limits of the equipment and perform user level maintenance.”

“The soldiers worked hard and had an outstanding annual training, we look forward to doing this again,” said Dixon.

The 189th might only get the chance to lay asphalt once-a-year but Camp Edwards will benefit from the projects they complete for many years to come.