Soldiers from the 249th Engineer Battalion, Prime Power, combined their military and professional skills to compete in the 37th International Lineman’s Rodeo at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kan., on Oct. 16, 2021.
Teams and apprentices from all five companies within the battalion registered to compete: three active companies, Alpha Company, Bravo Company, Charlie Company and Higher Headquarters Company, and the battalion’s reservists, Delta Company.
“Each team consists of two journeyman climbers and one journeyman groundman,” Staff Sgt. Joseph Hak of Delta Company out of Cranston, R.I., said. “Apprentices compete individually—they function as their own team—and compete in the entire pool of apprentices.”
Journeymen linemen and groundmen are trained to build and maintain electrical power systems, whereas apprentices are there to practice their industry skills and one day become journeymen.
The teams and apprentices participated in four different events: the hurt-man rescue, pole climb, hot-sticking challenge and an obstacle course. Each mission was designed to test different industry skills like climbing and agility, but the overall goal was safety.
“For this [competition] in particular, this is more of an event where we are really honing our skills… [but] you’re also exercising safe and effective work measures while maximizing workers efficiency,” Hak said.
Hak explained that this competition gives them a practical timeline to accomplish a realistic task that they will see in everyday operations, whether it’s the civilian sector or the military sector.
All three Soldiers on Delta Company’s team work in the power industry as civilians. That experience helps them succeed as Army linemen.
“I think one makes you better at the other,” Hak said. “Like my civilian trade introduced me to a whole breadth of development as a lineman. As far as being a lineman in the Army, it’s realistically the same thing but it also introduces the additional responsibilities of soldiering, warrior tasks and battle drills.”
For the other teams from active companies, this competition served another purpose. This was their chance to get real-life industry experience.
“We don’t do this every day. We probably had about two months to get ready for it,” Sgt. 1st Class Mathew Walker of Alpha Company out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, said.
In their “normal jobs,” the active Soldiers have the 12P Military Occupation Specialty, Prime Power Production Specialist, and work to generate and provide power for civilian and military customers at their respective stations. To become an Army lineman, they go through supplemental training and take on the U4 identifier, Power Line Distribution Specialist, under their MOS.
Real world simulations like the rodeo are where they expand on their key skills.
“These experiences are where we learn a lot as a Prime Power Soldier, not just a lineman… [This competition] helps the entire engineer regiment [because] we get that little bit of extra hands-on experience for when we have to travel and set up distribution and an actual electrical grid,” Walker said.
The 249th active and reserve units also play an important part in disaster relief efforts, working alongside the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“We have the actual electrical engineers on the civilian [Corps of Engineers] side and they have the ‘on paper’ knowledge,” Walker said. “When you pair us together with them, we have that hands on experience to say ‘yeah that works on paper but have you thought of it this way’, so pairing us together… it works beautifully.”
Some of the Soldiers mentioned that they have worked alongside Kansas City District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel and said they were great partners.
According to Walker, their battalion’s presence at the Lineman’s Rodeo was to practice for disaster relief and real-life scenarios, but he also hopes people witnessed their wide range of abilities.
“[People] have heard of us but they don’t quite know what our capabilities are. They don’t know that we are so well versed in basically anything electrical because we can do anything from the 12R side, which is the interior work, to the mechanic side, which is the 91D side,” Walker said. “We have that knowledge base so that we can pick up and just go.”
Hak spoke on behalf of the battalion to express appreciation for their versatility.
“Those guys that take the extra time and energy to practice this profession and they take their U4 identifier very seriously is really appreciated from Delta Company and the rest of the battalion,” Hak said.
Prime power Soldiers, active or reservist, are proud of what they do.
“I love this battalion—I’ve been in it just over 10 years now—and I am glad to stay and consider myself a Prime Power Soldier still today,” Walker said.
Journeymen Results Overall:
26. U.S. Army 249th Engineer Battalion B Company
61. A Co,. 249th EN BN (Prime Power) (702)
72. Delta Company 249th EN BN
105. A Co,. 249th EN BN (Prime Power) (701)
Apprentice Results Overall:
34. HHC, 249th Engineer Battalion (1703)
35. C Co., 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), USAC (1708)
40. HHC, 249th Engineer Battalion (1700)
49. C Co., 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), USAC (1707)
76. C Co., 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), USAC (1705)
86. C Co., 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), USAC (1704)
93. HHC, 249th Engineer Battalion (1701)
135. D Co., 249th EN. BN. (1709)
163. C Co., 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), USAC (1706)
Full results can be found here.