857th working towards more community work

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The local Mississippi Army National Guard 857th Engineer Company is working to become more involved in the community after serving recent tours overseas.

Based in Picayune, but part of the 890th Engineer Battalion, the 857th conducts many tasks when deployed overseas and while at home, said unit commander Capt. Shan Seymour.

Since they are an engineering company, they build road bases, create proper drainage and build foundations for public buildings.

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“As engineers our mission changes. We do it all from clearing routes, to building foundations for schools, hospitals and homes. Everything locals need,” Seymour said about their recent deployment.

Last week the 857th was participating in a two-week training exercise that ensures the company’s soldiers are ready when called. The training focused on rebuilding or creating motor pools (lots to store heavy equipment), clearing roads, repairing heavy equipment and removing old asphalt.

“What it does is allow our soldiers to become proficient in the machinery,” Seymour said.

Some of the soldiers use these skills in their civilian jobs as well. Since the unit operates heavy equipment, such as bulldozers, skid steers and rollers, many of the soldiers have day jobs in the fields of construction and driving 18-wheelers.

All units under the 890th work as a team to accomplish a task by utilizing their specific skill set. While the 857th works primarily in building foundations, they don’t perform asphalt work. Another company within the battalion conducts that work.

“We’re all part of one big battalion,” Seymour said. “When it comes down to it, we team up to build a city.”

The unit was recently awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for their work while deployed in Afghanistan from 2012 to 2013.

Now that they are home, Seymour hopes the unit has more time to become involved within the community.

“Whether it’s something as simple as taking a Humvee to Walmart and letting kids check it out,” Seymour said.

Seymour has plans to meet with community leaders to find the best ways for the company to become more involved.

In the past, the company has provided assistance to the region, such as setting up a tent for a church event, or providing Humvees for a Mardi Gras parade in Gulfport.

Soldiers in the company remember every time Pearl River County residents showed their support.

“I know both times the units came back from Iraq and Afghanistan Picayune gave their full support and the soldiers greatly appreciated that,” Seymour said.

Earlier this year, officials within the city of Picayune donated an ice machine and refrigerator to the unit to replace aging appliances.

National Guard units around the country also respond to disasters. The 857th provided assistance to local and state residents after Hurricane Katrina by clearing roads so supplies could be delivered and conducting search and rescue operations. In a predicted flooding situation, the National Guard would work to prevent flooding in low-lying areas.

“We do anything we can to protect the people, that is what our job is,” Seymour said.