HOULTON, Maine — Whether summer or winter, earthmoving equipment is not a common sight at the Houlton Elementary School or the Southside School.
But it has been the norm at both schools over the past two weeks as Maine Army National Guard soldiers from the 185th Engineer Company construct three baseball fields for the Houlton Area Little League.
The unit also is doing a community construction project for the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, in which soldiers are building a small road and preparing the ground for a concrete pad.
In Fort Kent, the soldiers are working on a project to prevent road erosion and flooding near a school in SAD 27. The work will help channel water away from the school.
The 185th Engineer Company of the Maine Army National Guard is stationed at Caribou and Fort Kent. The unit is composed of 121 soldiers from Aroostook County. The community projects provide engineering experience for the unit while serving schools, entities and nonprofit organizations in the Aroostook County area.
On Thursday afternoon in Houlton, soldiers trucked in gravel and maneuvered equipment under a sweltering sun.
Cadet Nicholas Larrabee, who is part of the 136th Engineer Company out of Lewiston, was undergoing his own training with the 185th Engineer Company. He was helping manage the project at the two schools.
The West Gardiner resident said Thursday that work on the fields began on June 14. Two of the fields are near the Southside School and one is near the Houlton Elementary School. A great deal of work already had been done to the field near HES before soldiers arrived, so most of the work involved building the Southside School fields.
Each workday began at 5:30 a.m. After formation, safety checks and other business, work at the job site began by 7 a.m. The workday ended at 5 p.m.
“This is a great training experience,” Larrabee said Thursday afternoon. “From our aspect, we get a lot of time on the machines, such as bulldozers and loaders, while the community benefits from the project. The Little League will have this for years to come.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the work was 64 percent complete, according to Larrabee. Soldiers would leave the site Thursday evening but work will continue during weekend drills.
Larrabee said the project gave him engineering experience and training in management.
“I really have learned a lot,” he said Thursday.