By 2nd Lt. Crutchfield, USAG Bavaria Public Affairs
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Army engineers here completed initial construction of what is soon to be Overwatch Park: a combination of memorials and historical vehicles and equipment positioned adjacent Memorial Park in Grafenwoehr.
First Platoon of the 902nd Engineer Company — who fall under 15th Engineer Battalion — constructed ten concrete slabs where nine Army vehicles and one central cannon will soon be displayed, adding to the existing 172nd Infantry Memorial, and thus beginning the building of what’s being dubbed Overwatch Park.
Once finished, the vehicles will be positioned in a downward sloping spiral at the end of Memorial Park on Grafenwoehr’s Tower Barracks near the current site of the 172nd Infantry Brigade Memorial, which was erected in honor of the Soldiers killed while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2008 and 2012.
The garrison’s Directorate of Public Works nominated this project for troop construction, which is not uncommon on the installation. Similar projects tasked to Soldiers in the recent past include the construction of a fitness pavilion in Rose Barracks, as well as substantial repairs on a nearby skeet range. By utilizing troops for garrison construction projects, Soldiers gain valuable experience between deployments, and the community is able to save funds.
“It gives them the skills that they normally use in their jobs,” said DPW’s master planner, James Beatty. “And it provides a benefit to the community as well.”
The troops have a similar outlook.
“Not only will it save the government money, but it will give us something to train on,” said 2nd Lt. Lieutenant Harrison Heath, platoon leader, First Platoon. The platoon has been responsible for all initial Overwatch Park construction.
First Platoon finished the construction of ten reinforced concrete pads, as well as some significant landscaping, Sept. 10, less than 12 working days from their original start date. The platoon finished one days ahead of schedule—in time to have the area cleared for the Sept. 11 ceremony held on Memorial Field.
902nd Engineer Company returned in July from a 66-day deployment in Estonia, where First Platoon constructed four barracks huts that will be used as classrooms by the Estonian Defense Force and other NATO Allies in Tapa Training Area, Estonia.
Memorial Park, better known as the parade field, is used for change of command ceremonies, as well as various events and ceremonies hosted by the garrison and mission partners.
The military term “overwatch” refers to a position where one unit can provide cover and support, or overwatch, for another unit to reach its objective. In this way, the historical vehicles and equipment, and those Soldiers who came before and died in combat, are metaphorically over watching the events.
The tanks and vehicles currently placed around Memorial Park will remain in their places while other pieces that are currently scattered around the installation will be moved to Memorial Park to provide a more consolidated display of the installation’s history. Additional memorials will continue to be erected in Overwatch Park, including one that will be added shortly from the 18th Military Police Brigade, Beatty said.
The finished product will incorporate historic vehicles and equipment that were originally used in this area. The cannon at the center of the display will be a replica very similar to the one that fired the first round in 1910.
Historical information about each vehicle and piece of equipment will soon be on display at Overwatch Park. There will be benches as well as an extensive pathway beginning by the community center, passing through Overwatch Park and ending near the Tower Barracks theater. Overall completion is scheduled for the summer of 2016.
The goal is to provide one central historical area, where families and historians can gather to learn about the installation’s engaging history, Beatty said.
“We are trying to consolidate, to bring the history to one location so people don’t have to go all over the installation to find it,” Beatty said. A historic tour of the Grafenwoehr installation is also in the makings.