397th Engineer Battalion (CBT)(CORPS)(M)
The mission of the 397th Engineer Battalion (CBT)(CORPS)(M) is to increase the combat effectiveness of the corps by accomplishing mobility, countermobility, limited survivability, and general engineering tasks, to reinforce the heavy division, enhanced and separate heavy brigades, and armored cavalry regiments, to perform combat missions in the role of infantry, when required, and to participates in joint military operations. On order, the 397th Engineer Battalion mobilizes at home station, moves to Mobilization Station Ft. McCoy, WI, prepares for deployment, then deploys to a theater of operations. The battalion moves to and occupies an assembly area/base in a base cluster to prepare for and conduct mobility, countermobility, and survivability operations to enhance the combat capabilities of the supported unit. The battalion has five companies spread accross Wisconsin, four of which are combat mechanized engineers, and one which is a multi-role bridge (MRB) company. The bridge company also has a detachment in Marquette, MI.
The 353rd Engineer Group is the 397th's war time higher headquarters, based in Oklahoma City, OK.
The Battalion trains to prepare for supporting front line armor and infantry units on today's battlefield. Troops spend 2 to 3 weekend drills per year at Ft. McCoy, conducting battalion level 24 hour continuous tactical operations. Additionally, companies spend 2-3 weekend drills each year performing company level tactical operations at training areas near their reserve centers. But the most intense training occurs during Annual Training (AT) when the battalion spends at least 10 days doing continuous tactical operations, either at Ft. McCoy, the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC), or the National Training Center (NTC) at Ft. Irwin, CA. Soldiers spend the remaining 4-6 weekend drills each year performing individual training such as common task training (CTT), weapons qualification, driver training, and physical fitness training. This time is also used to perform needed maintenance on equipment and to handle necessary administrative tasks.
The 397th Engineer Battalion traces its roots back to 1942 when the 353rd General Engineer Service Regiment was constituted and activated at Camp White, Oregon. In April 1944, in the midst of World War II, the regiment was broken up, with it's 1st Battalion redesignated as the 353rd Engineer Construction Battalion. The regiment's 2nd Battalion was redesignated as the 1393rd Engineer Construction Battalion and the Headquarters Service Company was redesignated as the 1177th Engineer Construction Group. The 1393rd was later inactivated in Japan after the war.
The 353rd Engineer Construction Battalion went on to serve at Luzon during the Philippine Campaign in the Pacific Theater of Operations. There, the battalion built airfields, roads and bridges for the advancing troops, all under the constant threat of strafing and sniper attacks from the Japanese. For it's participation in the campaign, the battalion was awarded the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation embroidered October 1944 to July 1945, and earned the Luzon campaign streamer.
In February 1947, the 353rd was redesignated as the 397th Engineer Construction Battalion, and was allotted to the reserves in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, assigned to the 5th Army. The 397th was inactivated three years later in November 1950, but then was reactivated in 1959 and redesignated as the 397th Engineer Battalion (Combat)(Army) in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Since that time, the battalion's original higher headquarters, the 353rd General Engineer Service Regiment, was reactivated as the 353rd Engineer Group in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and became the 397th's wartime higher headquarters. In 198X the US Army Reserves reorganized and the 397th had its peacetime higher headquarters changed from the 5th Army to the 88th Regional Support Command.
The 397th has served in Eau Claire from 1959 to the present day without any additional activation to active duty, although elements of the battalion have trained in Panama, Guatemala, Bosnia and the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, California. The battalion underwent a mission and equipment change from combat heavy to combat mechanized in 1994. They turned in their heavy construction equipment like graders, scrapers, front end loaders and some dozers, and received M113 Armored Personnel Carriers and other tracked combat vehicles to support their new mission as combat mechanized engineers. Finally, in 1995, the 652nd Engineer Company (Multi-Role Bridge) was assigned to the battalion.
The 397th unit crest contains many features which are relevant to the unit's history. The red and white are the colors used for the Engineers. The red points in the center of the shield allude to the mountainous terrain of Luzon where the battalion fought in World War II. The transit head in the canton (the square in the upper left corner of the shield), is an item of engineering equipment, and is used with the bayonet to convey the engineering-combat function of the battalion. The canton itself originates in the unit crest of the battalion's original parent unit, the 353rd Engineer Regiment. The unit's official motto, Essayons Tout De Suite, can be translated from the French as "We Shall Do, Right Away." The unit's unofficial motto, "Dare To Fail," was coined by one of the battalion's most respected and memorable commanders, LTC Randy Kopitzke, and challenges the battalion's soldiers not to fear failure, and to strive for achievement and success.
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