By Carol Davis
WIESBADEN, Germany — More than 50 students from six NATO countries attended a four-day engineering course, the week of May 15 at the Wiesbaden Entertainment Center, designed to teach the basic development, planning, execution, and closure processes of a base camp downrange.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Base Camp Development Planning Course combined lectures and practical exercises to teach students to, as Lt. Col. David Wong, instructor, said think holistically when it comes to base camp development.
The course, according to Wong, provided an organized, sequential method of planning and thought process.
"What tends to happen in the field is that we have a preconceived notion and jump ahead to the solution," Wong said. "But this course teaches students to go through a detailed analysis of what resources we have to accomplish the mission."
The course gave instruction on planning, location selection, land use, facility requirement development, general site planning, design guide and programming, maintaining, and clean up and closing of a base camp.
Instruction was given in blocks which ranged from fundamentals, taught through class lectures, to individual assignments, where students tried out their own ideas, to finally, a team practical exercise where students worked together to build a base camp from concept to closure.
After the practical exercise, students produced briefings and presented them to the class in the same manner they would present a brief to a Brigade Combat Team commander. During this portion, every student on the team had to present and defend their portion of the brief.
"This course is a tool," Wong said. "It's designed to help broaden our experiences and our knowledge base."
He said because the course was held in Europe, it had the added benefit of having students from NATO countries.
"With this diverse group, we have the opportunity to open our minds to new methods and ideas," he said. "There's no set text book answer on building a base camp. It's mission dependent, and with every solution comes a different method."
The course was attended by military and civilian students from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Greece and the U.S.
Master Sgt. Steve Frank, course host, said this was the second year that NATO students attended the course.
"This year we have 17 NATO students, that is a course high," Frank said. "Having the NATO students is a great benefit because we don't fight in a single-force arena. These days, everything is done jointly. It's important to start the interaction and information sharing during training and not once we're in the field.
"I now have an overview of how the different nations work before I go on a mission to build a base camp," German 1st Lt. Eric Ebach, Spezialpionierbataillon 464, said. "It will be easier to talk to each other after having this course."
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Samantha Turner, 243rd Engineer Detachment, echoed Ebach's appreciation for the course's diverse students.
"The thing that I will take away from this course is what I learned from the multinational forces. The missions they've been on and the different ways they construct, gave me a different perceptive and a different way of how to do things," Turner said.
According to Greece's Lt. Col. Dimitrios Varoutis, a NATO Military Engineering Center of Excellence course developer, he attended the BCDP course as a way to compare and compile information for rewriting the center's base camp training module which is imbedded in a COE training course.
"USACE is at the forefront for base camp design," Varoutis said. "I wanted to make sure that the information that is in our base camp development module mirrors the information we are teaching."
"With hundreds of thousands of troops in Afghanistan alone, base camp design is important because if you think about it, we not just designing a camp, we're designing a Soldier's home away from home. The solutions we come up with have to be good because you never know when one of these students will be called on to design a base camp." Frank said.
"The key is to prepare the next generations, the next group, for future contingencies, and that's what this class does," Wong said.