Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Camp Abbot Training Cycle

Camp Abbot was constructed to train up to 10,000 men at a time. The 17 week training cycle consisted of three phases: six weeks of general “basic training”, a specialty training period of eight weeks, and a final three weeks of living in the field under simulated battle conditions.

In the first phase the men received basic instruction in map reading, close order drill, rigging, first aid, camouflage, and military security. The program included rigorous physical training and a variety of combat drills such as hand-to-hand combat, hand and anti-tank grenades, defense against chemical, air, and mechanized attack, and rifle marksmanship.

The second phase of specialized training offered an eight week program in one of eight specialist training courses: carpentry, sawmill operation, demolition, cooking, administration, automotive maintenance, motor vehicle operation, and heavy equipment operation.
If a trainee was not selected for one of these specialties he advanced to the technical and tactical phase, also eight weeks in duration. He became part of a team that learned to build bridges under fire, engage in village combat, lay and pass through mine fields, and perform engineer reconnaissance. In essence, the combat engineer was trained to prepare the way for an attacking army.

The third phase of the ERTC program was a three week field maneuver conducted under simulated battle conditions know as a “problem”. The problem was delivered to the training battalion in the form of a sealed order, usually setting down a set of circumstances and a “mission” to repel a hypothetical enemy. The three weeks typically included a short bivouac, building a bridge, road, clearing obstacles, and preparing a defensive position with barbed wire and mine fields. After 17 consecutive days in the field, marching under full packs, eating field rations and performing the function of combat engineers, Bill and his fellow trainees would be ready for the looming invasion of Europe.


  1. Great summary of combat engineer training, Gregg. I got a kick out of the poster. I would say that they got the shovel and the shell fire right. The Garand with the bayonet is definitely for the folks on the home front.

    The troops aren't the only ones being trained. The officers are learning their jobs too, from second lieutenants up to battalion commanders. With any luck the squads, platoons, and companies will settle into cohesive units which will take pride in running their sawmill or building a road.

    Gregg, you have established a real foreshadowing with this series. Bill is proud of his scarlet and red piping and undoubtedly engaged in the minor competitions between squads and platoons as they learn new skills. We all enjoy the satisfaction of having built something. As we know, Bill and his buds are destined for the infantry and some of the fiercest fighting in the campaign for northern Europe.

  2. It seems to me that the poster's of WWII are an excellent barometer of the cultural attitudes of the time. World War II was called the "Good War" and that is what is reflected in the posters. The same "heroic" mindset is seen in the poster art of WWI. Things changed during the Korean War (or police action), and by Vietnam it was all but gone.

    It is indeed very interesting to be able to follow Bill's day-to-day experiences at Camp Abbot, particularly as seen almost 70 years after the fact. It is like watching a movie or reading a novel and becoming the main character, yet knowing how the main details of the story will unfold and end. The fascination, it seems to me, is in the small details.

  3. Great summary of Engineer Training at Camp Abbott. Can't wait till Bill tells us what it's like from first hand experience. -- wg


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