CINCU, Romania, Aug. 10, 2017 —
For Army Spc. Alvin Stevens, building targets at a tank range in Romania is a far cry from his previous assignment to Kandahar, Afghanistan. "There's a lot more green, and the shepherds here aren't making phone calls to the Taliban," he said.
Stevens, of Bonneau, South Carolina, is at the Joint National Training Center here, serving with the South Carolina Army National Guard's 1223rd Engineer Company, 178th Engineer Battalion.
A carpentry and masonry specialist whose unit was tasked with completing a moving-target system for a tank range, Stevens used his skills as an equipment operator and jumped into the nearest loader to help load rock into the baskets that will protect the targetry.
"Digging rocks is better than building," he said, before turning to pour rocks from the loader bucket. "I love getting to work with heavy equipment."
In his four years of service, Stevens has traveled to Afghanistan, Oman and Romania. In Afghanistan, his unit deconstructed a forward operating base. "They handed us a bunch of sledgehammers and told us to get to work," he said. In Oman, the unit spent two weeks building an urban operations course out of shipping containers.
In Romania, his unit is part of Resolute Castle 17, a multinational NATO project building an armor live-fire range, a sniper range and a demolitions range. Besides building infrastructure, Stevens emphasizes the importance of working together with the NATO allies: "We did a lot of welding with them when it came time to put up the range towers," he said.
With a father in the Marines, a grandfather in the National Guard and uncles across the services, Stevens is used to military life. In civilian life, he is a car salesman for a dealership in North Charleston, South Carolina, and he noted some parallels between the two careers.
"In selling a car, there are always steps," he said. "In the military, too, it's organized, and you have to follow the process. But there are opportunities in that."