586th Engineer (Floating Bridge) Company
The 586th Engineer Company (Assault Float Bridge) is a corps ribbon bridge company, versatile and capable of carrying out a variety of missions. With less than 24 hours notice, the company deployed to Jacksonville, Fla., to conduct port operations for the 24th Inf. Div. (M), and the 197th Infantry Brigade, in support of Operation Desert Storm. The unit also deployed to southern Florida in support of Hurricane Andrew relief efforts, hauling life-essential goods to more than 34 relief centers. One of the company's platoons deployed to Haiti in support of Operation Restore Democracy where it provided convoy security from the port to Dragon Basecamp. In garrison, elements can be found training along the Chattahoochee River.
The 586th Engineer Company deployed to Bosnia in December 1995. During the initial weeks of Operation Joint Endeavor, the Combat Equipment Battalion-South in Livorno, Italy, prepared and issued a tailored equipment set for the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) within 48 hours of notification. In the central region, CEG-E deployed three continental United States-based combat engineer companies through the 16th CEC in Zutendaal, Belgium, en route to the Balkans. One of those units, the 586th Engineer Company (Assault Float Bridge) from Fort Benning, Georgia, built the vital return crossing that established two-way traffic over the Sava River between Croatia and northern Bosnia-Herzegovina. Half a century after the Germans invented the combat "ribbon bridge" and 19 years after the US military managed to copy it, the Army actually built one of its own in the Bosnia mission.
Spanning a 400-foot-wide river with a floating bridge is all in a day's work for the soldiers of the 586th Engineer Company at Fort Benning, Ga. The 586th specializes in float bridges - huge steel ramps, known as bays, that, pieced together, can be crossed by whole divisions at a rate of 200 tanks, Bradleys and Humvees every hour. The bays, weighing 1,200 pounds apiece, float on water and are held in place by power boats. A completed bridge can support the weight of an M1 tank. During wartime a raft would be used to ferry a small force across the river to secure the far bank. Once the security force is in place and any enemy resistance is suppressed, the engineers add bays to the raft until it stretches across the river, allowing the rest of the force to cross the bridge - or "full-closure" to engineers. When it comes to a river crossing, speed is essential. Bridges and rafts are big targets - they're kind of hard to hide. All a helicopter or airplane has to do is fly straight down the river and start firing, and there's not really a whole lot you can do about it.
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