20th Engineer Battalion
"Lumberjacks"/"Build and Fight"
The mission of the 20th Engineer Battalion is to, on order, deploy to designated contingency area of operations as an Engineer Mission Force to provide tailorable and scalable Combat Engineering Support with any mix of 3-5 company sized Engineer Effects Modules to enable full spectrum operations. It is also to ensure mission readiness of assigned companies and Engineer Effects Modules in the engineer force pool.
The 20th Engineer Battalion traces its origins to 15 August 1917, when the War Department issued General Order Number 108 forming the 20th Engineer Regiment. On 11 November 1917, the first contingent departed for St. Nazaire, France, where it grew to become the largest Regiment in the history of the US Army, consisting of 29 battalions and over 46,000 soldiers. The Regiment was awarded a campaign streamer for its operations throughout France then demobilized upon its return to the US in July 1919.
The Regiment was reactivated in July 1940 at Fort Benning, Georgia. In July 1942, after completion of its combat training and after helping construct Camp Shelby, Mississippi and Camp Bouregard, Louisiana, the 20th Engineer Regiment deployed to Casablanca, French North Africa. There the Regiment cleared and secured port facilities, then fortified the hotel where President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill met for the Casablanca Conference. The Regiment next executed a motor march over 1,000 miles of desert to join the command of General Omar Bradley. In Tunisia, the regimental commander devised a coded directional marker, the Wavy Arrow, to mark all 20th Engineer equipment. On 6 July 1943, the Regiment departed Tunisia with the 3rd Infantry Division and conducted a first wave assault landing onto the beaches of Sicily.
After the fall of Sicily, the Regiment moved to Scotland and was reorganized. The regimental headquarters was redesignated Headquarters, 1171st Engineer Group. The 1st Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment was redesignated the 20th Engineer Battalion, while the 2nd Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment was redesignated the 1340th Engineer Battalion. The 20th Engineer Battalion then moved to England to prepare for Operation Overlord and the invasion of Normandy.
The Battalion landed in the assault echelon of the 1st Infantry Division in support of the 16th Infantry Regiment on D-Day. For its efforts on Omaha Beach, the Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and the French Croix de Guerre. The Battalion went on to fight across France, Belgium, and Germany with many different divisions in battles such as the Hurtgen Forest and Battle of the Bulge, and ended the war in Czechoslovakia. It was deactivated in Frankfurt, Germany on 30 March 1946.
The Battalion was reactivated on 18 September 1950 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and moved to Fort Devens, Massachusetts in 1956. From Fort Devens, the Battalion was redeployed to Germany from 1961 to 1963 in support of the Berlin Crisis.
In 1966, troop ships deployed the Battalion to Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. The 20th Engineers served in Field Force II areas of operation throughout the war, at times reorganized as infantry, and earned a total of 3 Meritorious Unit Citations. The Battalion redeployed to Fort Campbell, Kentucky on 20 August 1971.
In October 1990 the Battalion was alerted and deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield. Upon its arrival, the Battalion quickly began conducting countermobility and survivability operations for the 101st Airborne Division and XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery. In Operation Desert Storm, the Battalion attacked 300 miles into Iraq. During the attack, the Battalion constructed logistics bases, cleared roads of obstacles and unexploded ordnance, and cleared the town of Al Busayah of enemy munitions and equipment. The Battalion returned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky in April 1991, having earned another Meritorious Unit Citation.
In June 1992, the 20th Engineers moved to Fort Hood, Texas to reorganize as part of the 1st Cavalry Division. Beginning in 1994, the Battalion deployed yearly to the National Training Center with the 1st Brigade "Ironhorse," 1st Cavalry Division, executing highly successful mobility, countermobility, survivability and force protection missions during every rotation.
In addition to the yearly rotations to the National Training Center, the Battalion stood ready to execute its no notice missions. In August 1994, the Battalion deployed as a task force headquarters to fight forest fires in the Boise National Forest, Idaho. In the Fall of 1995, C Company and a portion of the Headquarters deployed with Task Force 2-8th Cavalry to the mountains of Korea in support of Operation Foal Eagle. The deployed soldiers trained Republic of Korea soldiers, learned the Korean landscape and culture, and honed their war-fighting skills. In February 1997, C Company again deployed, this time with Task Force 1-7th Cavalry to the sands of Kuwait in support of Operation Sand Saber. The soldiers of Castle built ranges, trained with Kuwaiti soldiers and redeployed in June 1997.
In September 1998 the Battalion deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina to support peacekeeping operations for Operation Joint Forge. Assigned to support Task Forces 2-5th Cavalry, 1-8th Cavalry, and 2-8th Cavalry, the Battalion was critical to the success accomplished during the deployment. The Battalion conducted civil infrastructure reconstruction projects, identification of future area for de-mining operations, and was a significant contribution to maintaining the social stability within their respective sectors. Soldiers worked with both NATO and non-NATO allied forces in various projects such as bridge and route reconnaissance and bridge repair.
Re-deploying in March 1999, the 20th Engineer Battalion refocused its efforts towards warfighting as it prepared for a NTC train-up with the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. During January 2000, the 20th Engineer Battalion provided excellent combat engineer support to 1st Brigade for NTC Rotation 00-04 on numerous defensive and offensive operations, proving once again that the 20th Engineer Battalion was ready for any mission anywhere.
In August 2000, the Battalion with elements of the 1st Brigade deployed to the Lolo National Forest in Montana to fight wild land forest fires. In December 2000, A Company deployed in support of Task Force 2-5th Cavalry for Operation Desert Spring in Kuwait. The Battalion also fielded the Army Battle Command System to become one of the first digitized Engineer Battalions in the country.
On 12 April 2004 the Lumberjack Battalion uncased their colors in a small ceremony in front of their new headquarters building. The uncasing of the colors signified that the 20th Engineer Battalion had fully accepted the responsibility of supporting the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division in combat operations in the Baghdad vicinity. Operation Iraqi Freedom II (OIF II) was the 25 campaign where the Lumberjack Battalion would play an important role. Although the size and mission of the 20th Engineer Battalion had changed over the previous 87 years, the soldiers' tenacity and devotion to their mission remained unaltered. The fortitude of the Engineers before them would provide the foundation of dedication carried them through the coming months and back to Fort Hood, Texas safely.
The line company's missions were Exploded Ordnance Disposal Team Escort/Security, Reconnaissance Patrols, Quick Reaction Force, and Force Protection and Security. In addition to these critical missions, elements of the 20th Engineer Battalion were very busy in getting major utility and infrastructure projects started in their sector. One of the first construction tasks was repairing a bridge destroyed by terrorists. A team led by the Animals of A Company, 20th Engineers went out to repair a Mabey Johnson bridge (originally emplaced by US Marines) that was blown up on 11 April 2004 by a group of Iraqi insurgents. This bridge was a vital crossing for the people of the area and was already being used as a replacement for a concrete bridge that once spanned the Diyala River. One contracting project resulted in over 700 Iraqi laborers handling shovels, rakes, and construction equipment in a large scale clean-up project. The goal was to give them a project to be proud of, with a decent wage, and provide an opportunity that would hopefully make them more likely to pick up a shovel rather than a rifle.
As part of the 1st Cavalry Division's transformation towards the US Army's new modular force structure, the 20th Engineer Battalion was inactivated at Fort Hood in 2005. Engineer assets under the modular force structure were integrated at brigade and division level in Special Troop Battalions.
The 20th Engineer Battalion was reactivated at Fort Hood, Texas, as part of the 36th Engineer Brigade, the US Army's first modular engineer brigade.
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