July 31, 2008

West Point-based 237th Engineer Company returns to Virginia from Iraq

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

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Soldiers from the 237th Engineer Company received warm welcome homes from friends and family upon their return home to Virginia. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Approximately 105 Soldiers from the West Point-based 237th Engineer Company returned to Virginia July 20, after serving in Iraq since September 2007. Families, friends and members of the community of West Point packed the gym at West Point High School to welcome the unit home.

“We knew it would be a dangerous mission,” said Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, the adjutant general of Virginia. “The training was tough, the mission was tougher. But I can tell you on behalf of your fellow Guardsmen and your fellow citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, we are truly proud in the way you conducted yourself in your combat tour.”

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine was also in West Point to welcome the Soldiers home. “Celebrations like this are some of the most memorable and powerful days in this job as Governor, and I am honored to be here with you today,” he said. “The service you provide is truly exemplary, both to our nation, but also to our state. We are so thrilled to be here today to welcome you back to Virginia.”

While based in West Point, the 237th Engineer Company has members from various areas across the Commonwealth. The company has approximately 22 Soldiers who are from the Southwest area of Virginia hailing from such towns as Big Stone Gap, Cedar Bluff and Gate City, and those Soldiers held a separate welcome home ceremony in Gate City Sunday night.

The 237th Engineer Company is a “Sapper” unit of combat engineers who specialize in demolitions and light infantry tactics. They are used to conduct breaching operations ahead of maneuver elements, leading the way for friendly forces to conduct offensive operations.

While serving in Iraq, the 237th Engineer Company was tasked to conduct route clearance missions. During route clearance operations, patrols search for improvised explosive devices along main and alternate supply routes for maneuver elements within their assigned areas.

“Soldiers from the 237th Engineer Company were instrumental in spearheading the shaping and isolation operations within Sadr City during its peak in violence and their efforts directly lead to the peaceful resolution of hostilities within Sadr City,” said 1st Lt. Jonathan York, an operations officer for the company.

The 237th Engineers conducted route clearance operations throughout Eastern Baghdad in support of the 82nd Airborne and 4th Infantry Divisions. During their time in Eastern Baghdad, the unit successfully cleared more than 16,000 miles of routes, finding and clearing more than 60 IEDs and unexploded ordnances, of which many were the deadly explosively formed penetrators. 

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A memorial to the fallen Soldiers of the 237th Engineer Company stands outside the West Point Armory. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The 237th Engineer Company lost four Soldiers during the mobilization and deployment:

  • Staff Sgt. Jonathan M. Forde died of illness on Aug. 13, 2007, during mobilization training at Fort McCoy.
  • Sgt. David E. Lambert was killed on October 26, 2007 when an IED struck his vehicle.
  • Sgt. Derek R. Banks died of wounds suffered from the same incident on November 18, 2008 at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas.
  • Staff Sgt. Jeremiah McNeal, who was on his second tour in Iraq, was killed on April 6, 2008 when his vehicle was struck by an IED.

A statuette honoring these Soldiers has been erected outside of the Armory doors in West Point.

In addition to route clearance operations, Soldiers from the 237th conducted other engineer operations to support their Brigade Combat Teams to include over 900 miles of route sanitation, 200 construction support missions including the construction of 25 traffic control points, and  moving over 4,000 cubic yards of dirt.

A total of 93 Soldiers have earned, or have been nominated with official orders pending, the Combat Action Badge for directly engaging or being engaged by the enemy.

Soldiers from the 237th were awarded nine Bronze Star Medals, six Purple Hearts, one Meritorious Service Medal, one Army Commendation Medal with Valor, 79 Army Commendation Medals, 29 Army Achievement Medals, and one Battlefield Promotion. 

Additionally, Soldiers from the unit have been recommended for two Bronze Star Medals with Valor Devices, 10 Army Commendation Medals with Valor Devices, and six Army Commendation Medals. The recommendations are pending receipt of official orders.

The company been also been included in 1st Battalion, 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment’s (SCR) nomination for a Presidential Unit Citation, the highest honor a military unit can receive, for actions in Sadr City and were included in the nomination of the 107th Engineer Battalion for a Meritorious Unit Citation for the outstanding, steadfast and faithful service as a route clearance element for Mutli-National Division – Baghdad.

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