Mud Men of the 617th Engineer Company

By Melissa Renahan on August 20, 2014

Although it is located 40 miles from where the 617th Engineer Company is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as part of the 555th Engineer Brigade, soldiers have been hard at work on the Mud Mountain Dam Road Improvement Project for the last month.

Mud Mountain Dam protects the lower White and Puyallup River valleys from flooding. It is also open to recreational use along the White River (near Mt. Rainier) so that visitors can picnic, hike, bike or even ride horses all in view of the large dam.

The work has involved improving a two-mile stretch of road adjacent to the Mud Mountain Dam near Enumclaw, from adding a ditch to aggregate distribution to road compaction. 

That being said, while the 617th Engineer Company is equipped with the soldiers, capability and the time to handle the Mud Mountain project, it was only through a partnership with the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) from the Seattle district that the resources and task became available. 

The project, which was planned primarily at the company level and executed at the platoon level, has been underway since July 21 with direct USACE coordination. Throughout the process, there have been approximately 10 to 15 soldiers remaining onsite at a time with organic assets, rotating in and out in weeklong increments.

"This is the first time that we've partnered with the USACE in the two years I've been here," said 1st Lt. Alexander Sackmann, who has been serving as the project manager to ensure that the soldiers have what they need to complete the mission.

"We are a horizontal construction company, so this is crucial to our training and in line with our skills, but we don't always get this sort of opportunity," Sackmann continued. "We cannot do many construction projects around JBLM due to how densely populated it is."

"It was real-world training in open area so we're capable of doing so much more," agreed Staff Sgt. John Thompson.

Best of all, the improvements that have been made will allow for the safe transfer of salmon when they run upstream this season, according to Thompson.

"We want to continue the partnership in the future with the USACE because they have been great to work with throughout the project," Sackmann explained, citing USACE team members Rick Emry, Dan Johnson, Sam Stables and Mike Bartholet, specifically.

The project is on track to end Aug. 22 when the spillway access road improvement is finalized.


Major transition for the 555th Engineer Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord