On an overcast October morning, the 249th Engineer Battalion, Prime Power, came together with linemen from across the globe at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas, to showcase their unique skill set in the 39th Annual International Lineman's Rodeo.
The event brought the U.S. Army’s power generation specialists to the forefront, emphasizing how their expertise goes far beyond the battlefield, proving essential to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A gathering of elite linemen from the United States, Brazil and Canada, this rodeo provided an excellent opportunity for the U.S. Army’s 249th Engineer Battalion to demonstrate its capabilities in full-spectrum operations.
“It’s important for the public to see us out here,” said Maj. James “JD” Hala of Delta Company. “Whether it is supporting our partners like the FEMA during a crisis or the warfighter overseas, it gives them a better understanding of how we serve local, state, and national communities.”
The annual event brought the Battalion’s five companies and higher headquarters to the Kansas City District. It linked up active duty and reserve component Soldiers from Fort Belvoir, Fort Liberty, Schofield Barracks and Cranston, Rhode Island. Maj. Gen. James Kokaska Jr., deputy commanding general, Reserve Affairs and Command Sgt. Maj. Douglas Galick, USACE, were also in attendance supporting the 249th Engineer Battalion.
“It is a great honor to be here representing Alpha Company,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Ecker, a 30-year career Soldier. “This will be my last rodeo,” he reflected.
Ecker hails from Mana Koa, the moniker for the 249th’s Alpha Company. Bravo Company are Hurricanes, Charlie Company are Spartans, Delta Company are Roughnecks and Higher Headquarters Company are Renegades. Regardless of immediate company affiliation, they all wear the traditional white hard hat with the iconic red castle of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The linemen, divided into journeymen and apprentice categories, showcased their skills in hurt-man rescue and various pole climb challenges, demanding not only expertise and finesse but also unequivocal adherence to safety. The event facilitates Prime Power Soldiers' hands-on experience in uncommon daily operations tasks. It allowed them to expand their critical skills, sharpen their expertise and become more proficient in various roles.
“This is an outstanding opportunity, and we appreciate the electrical community putting this together,” said Lt. Col. Langston Turner, commander, 249th Engineer Battalion. “The [Soldiers ] interact with fellow professionals within the industry — learn and take advantage of the tools and skill sets presented here that we do not normally get our hands on.”
During emergencies, the 249th Engineer Battalion works in lockstep with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Prime Power assists in power generation and distribution to help communities in times of crisis. These capabilities complement routine operations, including power requirement assessments, production, inspection, testing, maintenance, repair and overall upkeep of essential power infrastructures.
As Soldiers honed their craft and highlighted their capabilities at the rodeo, the 249th Engineer Battalion reinforced the notion that their skills extend well beyond linework and are indispensable to the broader mission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.