A Sheffield Territorial Army soldier is building bridges – and fences – in the USA by doing his bit to keep herds of wild buffalo at bay.
Corporal Paul Grimes, aged 49, a carer for Direct Health in his civilian life, is on exercise with his TA unit 72 Engineer Regiment as part of a vast multinational construction exercise to rebuild a range of damaged structures within South Dakota’s Custer State Park.
Exercise Golden Coyote aims to rebuild a series of dilapidated bridges and complete a range of community construction projects, as well as allowing recruits to practise their combat engineering skills.
Construction tasks include building two fishing piers, steps up a steep embankment for military veterans to use, and a community playhouse in the park, together with a kilometre of safety fencing along the annual buffalo herding route.
The work makes all the difference to the state-funded park in the Black Hills, which employs only 34 fulltime staff to maintain its 73,000 acres of land and herd of 1,700 wild buffalo.
Paul said: “I joined the TA in 1990 because I wanted to build bridges and work on construction tasks that help others, so this is ideal.
“It feels good to be doing something that benefits the community and is going to be useful, and I’m enjoying working with the other nations too. It all builds that sense of camaraderie, which is what keeps me in the TA after 23 years.”
Paul has worked on a number of the construction tasks, including being part of the small team of US National Guards, Danish Army Engineers, and UK TA Engineers who erected the safety fencing for the park’s buffalos.
Every year the park’s rangers herd the buffalo into a sorting area to check their health and sort animals that will be sold. The spectacle in late September is a popular tourism attraction with between 15,000 and 30,000 people coming to watch.
That makes it vital to put as many safety measures in place as possible to separate the onlookers from the wild herd.
“This is one of the few places where they can still see buffalo being rounded up,” said assistant buffalo herd manager, Mike Torp.
“It’s a taste of the old west, and it is interesting to see a herd of buffalo being moved like that across the plains.
“But buffalos can be dangerous. They are big animals.”