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1st Engineer Battalion
"Always First/Die Hard"

The mission of the 1st Engineer Battalion is to deploy to designated contingency areas and conducts combat and/or stability operations in support of a brigade combat team.

The 1st Engineer Battalion was one of the oldest and most decorated engineer battalions in the United States Army. The Battalion's history could be traced back to 15 May 1846 when a company of Miners, Sappers, and Pontoniers was formed at the US Military Academy, West Point, New York. A Company, 1st Engineer Battalion was that company's direct descendant. During its long history, the Battalion has received 62 decorations and campaign streamers and 8 foreign awards. A Company served gallantly during the Mexican-American War of 1846, participating in the Vera Cruz campaign and leading the charge up the formidable heights of Chapultepec in Mexico City. During the war, Robert E. Lee, George McClellan, and P.G.T. Beauregard served as lieutenants in A Company and lead the list of distinguished Americans that have served in this battalion.

A Company was expanded into the Battalion of Engineer Troops during the Civil War and was assigned to the Union Army of the Potomac. The Battalion served with distinction and earned 10 campaign streamers. The Battalion fought at Antietam, bridged the Rappanannock River 6 times at Fredericksburg, breached fortifications at Petersburg and was present at the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox. The Battalion's first Sergeant Major, Frederick W. Gerber, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his 23 years of service to the Battalion, which included the Mexican-American and Civil Wars.

During the Spanish-American War, C and E companies of the Battalion were sent to Cuba where they fought in the campaign to take the city of Santiago. The remainder of the Battalion was sent to the Philippines where they provided engineer support during the battles for Manila and Cavite. A Company remained in the Philippines and conducted pacification operations during the Philippine Insurrection.

With the start of World War I, the Battalion was expanded to the 1st Engineer Regiment and assigned to the 1st Infantry Division. The Regiment fought as part of the 1st Infantry Divisionk, the "Big Red One," and participated in the Lorraine and Meuse-Argonne campaigns and was awarded the French Fourragere and 2 awards of the Croix de Guerre for valorous service. Sergeant Wilber E. Colyer of Alpha Company received the Congressional Medal of Honor for advancing under fire and destroying a series of enemy machine gun positions near Verdun, France in 1918.

Prior to the start of World War II, the 1st Engineer Regiment was reorganized as the 1st Engineer Combat Battalion and again assigned to fight as part of the 1st Infantry Division. In 1942, the Battalion landed with the initial forces spear-heading the North Africa invasion. In 1943, the Battalion cleared underwater obstacles and destroyed enemy pillboxes during the landings on Sicily. During the Normandy landings at Omaha Beach in 1944, the Battalion led the assault forces, breaching gaps in the extensive enemy mine and wire obstacles and clearing the combat trails leading off the beaches. The Battalion received its third Presidential Unit Citation for actions at Omaha Beach and received the Distinguished Unit Citation for combat action at Gafsa, Tunisia, and Normandy. The Battalion fought as part of the 1st Infantry Division during the remainder of the war in the European Theater and after 10 years of occupation duty moved to Fort Riley, Kansas. For service in this conflict, they were awarded 8 campaign streamers, 3 Presidential Unit Citations, and 2 French Croix De Guerres with Palm, the French Medaille Militaire, and the Belgian Fourragere.

On 2 May 1965 the Battalion deployed to the Republic of South Vietnam as part of the 1st Infantry Division. For 5 years the Battalion cleared obstacles, built roads, airfields, basecamps and bridges in support of numerous combat operations including Junction City I and II and the Tet Offensive of 1968. The Battalion became famous for the "Die Hard" Tunnel Rat section that bravely cleared the extensive Vietcong tunnel systems with little more than small arms and demolitions. The Battalion received 4 Meritorious Unit Citations for actions during the Vietnam War. The Battalion returned to Fort Riley, Kansas in 1970.

During the next 20 years at Fort Riley, the Battalion took part in numerous training exercises, National Training center (NTC) rotations, and REFORGER deployments to Germany.

In December of 1990, the Battalion deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The Battalion breached and cleared lanes through Iraqi obstacle belts that allowed the passage of 2 divisions. Elements of the Battalion destroyed 58 Iraqi tanks, 41 anti-aircraft artillery pieces, and other large quantities of ammunition and war material. The Battalion returned to Fort Riley in 1991 and received the Valorous Unit Citation for actions in Southwest Asia.

After 1991, the Battalion participated in many NTC and Joint Readiness Traing Center (JRTC) rotations, fought fires in the Northwestern United States, and supported anti-drug operations as part of Joint Task Force 6 (JTF-6). In 1995, the 1st Engineer Battalion was awarded the Superior Unit Award for exceptional performance during the Engineer Restructuring Initiative on Fort Riley.

On 30 August 1999 the Battalion deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of NATO's Stabilization Force 6 (SFOR-6). Until redeploying on 12 December 1999, the Battalion helped provide a stable and secure environment so the benefits of democracy and freedom might flourish. To this end, the Battalion conducted reconnaissance of over 1,230 kilometers of routes and 298 bridges; destroyed 116,000 anti-personnel land mines; constructed 30 kilometers of roads and 5 bridges; supervised Entity Armed Forces' clearance of more than 43,000 square miles of minefields; and distributed toys, clothing, and humanitarian aid to Bosnian children and homeless families.

On 8 September 2003, the 1st Engineer Battalion deployed to Iraq as part of the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division for Operation Iraqi Freedom. In one year the Battalion exploited over 370 enemy caches consisting of 28 tons of munitions and weapons, found and destroyed over 50 improvised devices, fortified 21 government buildings and coalition camps in the Al Anbar Province, cleared several hundred kilometers of roads, supported 6 battalions in the Ar Ramadi and Habbaniyah areas with combat engineer operations for 6 other camps in the Ar Ramadi area. The Battalion returned to Fort Riley in October 2004 having successfully accomplished its mission in Iraq.

In March 2006, as part of the Battalion's transformation to a modular force, Companies A, B, and C transformed and reflagged as the 111th Engineer Company (Sapper), 41st Engineer Company (Mobility Augmentation), and the 72nd Engineer Company (Mobility Augmentation). The Headquarters and Headquarters Company transformed into a Headquarters Support Company, and a new Forward Support Company was activated. This transformation enabled the Battalion to keep up with the contemporary operating environment and prepare for future missions.

From September 2006 to December 2007, the Battalion deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, as part of the 105th Engineer Group (North Carolina Army National Guard) in support of the 25th Infantry Division and later as part of the 111th Engineer Brigade (West Virginia Army National Guard) in support of the 1st Armored Division.

During this time period the Battalion temporarily changed its slogan from "Diehard" to "Trailblazer" to reflect its mission in theater to adjacent units. The Battalion patrolled over 485,751 kilometers, inflicted 159 enemy casualties, and successfully cleared over 1,900 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) during route clearance operations along main and alternate supply routes from Baqubah to Mosul in Multi National Division - North (MND-N), setting the standard for Route Clearance Operations throughout Iraq. The Battalion returned in late 2007 and was awarded the Valorous Unit Award for actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08.

The Battalion was reassigned to the 555th Engineer Brigade for training and readiness oversight in December 2007, but remained at Fort Riley, Kansas under the administrative control of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.




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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:22:18 ZULU