Most times, when an active duty U.S. Army unit is deployed it’s not to American cities, but for the 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power) it’s not unusual at all.
These specially trained Soldiers, part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, help provide temporary emergency power to critical facilities in communities impacted by natural or manmade disasters ― including anything from providing power to the New York Stock Exchange after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to help bring normalcy to the Nation's economy, to providing power to fuel depots in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. They also support military operations overseas, assisting with various power generation needs.
With four companies strategically stationed across the United States, the battalion's headquarters currently sits in aging facilities on Fort Belvoir in northern Virginia... but not for long.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, is working with their Prime Power colleagues to renovate the three buildings that are home to the battalion's headquarters, as well its C Company and a Reserve platoon.
"Our Soldiers provide outstanding support to contingency and emergency operations both at home and deployed," said 249th Engineer Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Julie Balten. "The funding for and completion of these renovations lets our Soldiers know we are investing in them and that their mission is important."
Construction is ongoing at Building 1417, the 249th's heavy maintenance facility, with the roughly $6 million interior renovation there slated to be completed in the coming weeks.
"The goal is to upgrade the battalion's post-World War II facilities to bring us into the future and provide us with the maintenance space we require to provide power support to the Army and the nation,” said Capt. Brad Davis, logistics officer for the 249th Engineer Battalion.
The next two phases of construction will each focus on the other two buildings used by the 249th, buildings 1416 and 1418. The contract for the next renovation is being discussed for possible bidding and award later this year.
"What we're finishing currently is phase one to enable the 249th to maintain their generators and vehicles," said Project Engineer Nhat Tran, of the Baltimore District.
Building 1417, where the unit performs generator maintenance as well as vehicle maintenance, was originally designed for use as a storage warehouse with entrances in the front and back and elevated office space splitting the open-spaced building into separated areas.
"Previously, they couldn't move trucks or generators from one end of the building to the other without going outside," Tran said. "We've improved the flow of work of the building by removing the office space in the middle of the building and we've also added in built-in cranes to help with the functionality of the facility.
The work is not only being done to improve functionality for 249th Soldiers, it's also improving safety by removing rust, lead paint and asbestos and improving the facility's efficiency by replacing aging mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.
While the phased work continues, the 249th are carrying out their missions using their buildings awaiting renovation, and they are appreciative of the facilities improvements.
"This renovation will update our 1940's era facility and enable us to continue our mission well into the future," Davis said.