Aug. 5, 2011

Engineers wrap up annual training with combat streamer ceremony

By Cotton Puryear      
Virginia Department of Military Affairs

The Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command wrapped up its two-week annual training period with a streamer ceremony held July 29 at the Fort Pickett Parade Field. During the ceremony, several units in the battalion were presented with streamers for combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

Lt. Col. James Zollar and Command Sgt. Maj. Daryl Plude attach the Combat Action Streamer for the 276th Engineer Battalion to the unit colors during a ceremony held July 29 at the Fort Pickett Parade Field. Several units in the battalion were presented with streamers for combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan during the ceremony. The battalion received the Combat Action Streamer and Valorous Unit Award for duty in Afghanistan in 2009 where they provided command and control for six engineer companies with 15 route clearance platoons. The battalion's forward support company was also recognized with a Valorous Unit Award. Zollar was the commander of the battalion during the deployment and Plude was the battalion command sergeant major. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

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"Think about these streamers and the recognition you just received," said Col. Walt Mercer, commander of 91st Troop Command. "Those streamers represent you as Soldiers. Most of you were in one or more of those deployments where those were earned, and you know what it means. You know the cost, and you know the significance.

"Keep that close to your heart," he said. "It is a big deal."

The battalion received the Combat Action Streamer and Valorous Unit Award for duty in Afghanistan from February to November 2009 where they provided command and control for six engineer companies with 15 route clearance platoons. The battalion's forward support company was also recognized with a Valorous Unit Award.

"The 276th Engineer Battalion and its subordinate units displayed extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom throughout Regional Command East and South," the award citation read. "Through a coordinated effort the units accomplished it's route clearance mission in support of Combined Joint Task Force 101st and 82nd. In doing so, the unit provided freedom of maneuver to at least 5 brigade combat teams, numerous battalions, coalition task forces, the Afghan National Army and the Afghan people. Additionally the units' command and staff team successfully planned more than 1,090 missions to reduce explosive hazards and neutralize enemy forces within their area of operation."

 

A Soldier from the 276th Engineer Batallion operates a chain saw June 22 at the location of the planned Stafford Civil War Site. Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the 276th Engineer Battalion as part of the effort to clear and grade an access road for the park. Approximately 75 engineers from the Powhatan-based 180th Horizontal Construction Company along with the Cedar Bluff-based 1033rd Engineer Support Company and a section from the Bowling Green-based 189th Multirole Bridge Company worked together on the project. The Soldiers are conducting the work as part of their two-week annual training period as part of the Innovative Readiness Training program. The IRT allows engineers to put their military skills to work on community service projects approved by National Guard Bureau. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

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The 276th Engineer Battalion received a Meritorious Unit Citation and Valorous Unit Award for their service in Iraq from 2003 to 2004.

The Powhatan-based 180th Horizontal Construction Company received the Meritorious Unit Commendation for service in Iraq from May 2008 to July 2009 where they were responsible for road repair, route sanitation and various other engineer projects under the command of the 54th Engineer Battalion.

"The unit served as the sole engineer asset for Multi-National Division-Center, and in doing so, completed essential horizontal engineer missions including the start to finish horizontal construction of 17 bases, 150 route clearance missions, and critical bridge repair and inspection," the award citation read. "The unit also supported Coalition and Iraqi Forces by providing force protection and by increasing route traffic ability."

The West Point-based 237th Sapper Company received the Valorous Unit Award and Meritorious Unit Commendation for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy in Iraq from 2007 to 2008 where they conducted route clearance operations as part of the Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. Three Soldiers from the company were killed in action during the tour on active duty.

 

Virginia Guard ngineers from the Powhatan-based 180th Horizontal Construction Company, 276th Engineer Battalion work to clear and grade a pedestrian and biking trail along Cannon Creek which runs parallel to the Richmond Henrico Turnpike as a part of the Greenway project. The Petersburg-based Forward Support Company of the 276th Engineer Battalion is providing all logistical support for the units on site, keeping them fed and fueled. The work is part of the Phase I of the Cannon Creek Greenway that will bring the road to final grade in order to prepare the road for paving immediately following the engineers construction. The work being performed is valued at $120,000 and is being provided at no charge as part of the Guard Innovative Readiness Training Program.

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"The battalion's stalwart efforts and untiring support to the people of Iraq ensured an outstanding record of accomplishment," the award citation read. "Additionally, the unit's adept execution of operations, under perilous conditions, was instrumental in the domination of the counter insurgency fight, while at the same time, improving the quality of life for the citizens of Iraq."

In addition to recognizing the significance of the streamer ceremony, Mercer also commended the engineers on a very successful annual training period.

"You earned my trust and respect as a battalion this AT," Mercer said.

Lt. Col. Chris Atkinson, commander of the 276th, called the AT "the safest and best executed" in the battalion's history. In particular, he credited the noncommissioned officer's of the battalion for the care of Soldiers during the extreme heat and the fact that the battalion had no significant heat casualties because of their efforts.

The training for the battalion included two Innovative Readiness Training Projects in Richmond and Stafford County, as well as Fort Pickett, which gave Soldiers significant hands on training to better their engineer skills.

For many of the engineers, the AT was a chance to focus on the most basic engineer skills. Soldiers from the 237th were able to conduct urban breaching training at Fort Pickett to hone their skills on using explosives to open doors for entry into a building.

 

Soldiers of the West Point-based 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion employ detonation cord to breach doors July 27 during annual training at Fort Pickett. The Virginia Guard Engineers used several techniques to remove the doors from their frames including blasting the locking mechanism, blasting the door in half and, blasting the hinges of the doors to gain entry. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

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"It's a good motivational trainer, but also it's an extra skill that the military has to enter a building with a shock factor," said 1st Lt. Ryan Miller, commander of the 237th. "Any time these guys get to play with explosives they're having fun."

Atkinson said Soldiers in the battalion fired a quarter million rounds of ammunition, conducted 10,000 miles of vehicle and operator and issued 165 new equipment operator licenses. The Forward Support Company delivered 8,000 gallons of fuel, 2,000 hotel meals and travel 5,100 miles. The 189th MRBC constructed a 70-meter float bridge, a first for the unit since it transformed more than seven years ago.

The 1033rd Engineer Support Company led the Stafford County Civil War Park IRT Project where they cleared 2,000 linear feet for an access road and hauled 2,000 tons of gravel and debris. In the Richmond Cannon Creek IRT project, the 180th Horizontal Construction Company cleared 1,500 feet for the new bike and pedestrian path and hauled 2,000 tons of gravel and debris. (Click HERE to read more about the IRT projects.)

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