502nd Engineer Company (Multi-Role Bridge)
502nd Engineer Company (Assault Float Bridge)
The 502nd Engineer Company (Assault Float Bridge) was first constituted on 19 March 1942. In April 1942, the unit was activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina as a Light Pontoon Bridge Company. During World War II, the unit participated in the following campaigns: Normandy (streamer with arrowhead indicating participation in the initial assault), Northern France, Rheinland and Central Europe. It led several assault river crossings, making possible the Allied drive across France and into Germany.
After a short period as an Engineer Utilities Company following the war, the 502nd Engineer Company was reactivated in Karlsruhe, Germany in 1955. Later assigned to the 565th Engineer Battalion in 1969, it remained a key bridging asset for bridging support throughout Europe.
On 15 November, 1993, the 502nd Engineer Company moved to Pioneer Kaserne in Hanau, Germany to fall directly under the 130th Engineer Brigade. In December 1995, the 502nd Engineer Company rafted into the spotlight once again, deploying to the Balkans in support of Operation Joint Endeavor as part of Task Force Eagle. Once there, the unit played a crucial role in bridging the Sava River. Working for 72 straight hours under harsh winter conditions and extreme international pressure, the 502nd Engineer Company earned its famous motto "Never Quit." The bridge measured 2,239 feet, the longest float bridge in American history.
Soldiers of the 502nd Engineer Company (Assault Float Bridge) and the 4th Engineer Company of the German army participated in a combined US/German ribbon bridge crossing of the Rhine River 2 kilometers west of Ketsch, Germany on 7 October 1999. The partnership Rhine crossing marked the first time American and German armies had combined to construct a bridge since crossing the Elbe River in June 1998. One-hundred-ten American soldiers and 80 German soldiers participated in the event.
Full closure of the Rhine River was accomplished at 5 PM to allow the vehicles to cross the river. Partial closure started at 3 PM when construction began. The Germans started construction on the southern shore as the Americans took the northern shore. The Americans and Germans combined, because neither had enough ramp to cover the 230 meter Rhine River. The Americans had 215 meters of ramp and the Germans had 120 meters.
There were 2 different ways to cross a river. One way was full closure, which happened during the operation. The second was partial closure. Partial closure was when a space was left in the middle of the bridge and vehicles were ferried across from one side to the other. With partial closure, it took 7 minutes to ferry the vehicles between the 2 sides. Full closure took as long as it took to drive across the river. During the Rhine crossing, the Americans and the Germans completed the length of bridge estimated to add the final interior ramp. The 2 pieces of the bridge were maneuvered towards the center of the river, and the interior ramp was ferried to the center to complete the bridge. Finally, the Germans took responsibility for securing the final interior ramp and inspection of the bridge.
Soldiers of the 502nd Engineer Company (Assault Float Bridge), Hanau, Germany, constructed a 120-meter AFB across the Main River in Grossauheim, Germany, on 17 August 2000. Spectators from the area watched as the Company crew feverously constructed the floating bridge during the hot summer morning and witnessed its completion in the late morning hours. Construction began on the shore of the Main River. The first interior ramp was launched into the river with an impressive splash. By the time the Assault Float Bidge was completed, 18 ramps had been floated into the Main River. The ramps were maneuvered into position with a squad of Mk 2 bridge erection boats. The boats could either push or pull the ramps into the position the crew on the ramp needed to secure them together.
Ramps were placed into the river and than pieced together on each side of the river. Each side of the bridge was placed diagonally on the opposing banks of the river until they were ready to be moved towards the center and connected in the middle. Once the bridge was connected in the middle, both sides of the bridge were secured to the shore. A ratchet was secured to the bridge and stakes were driven into the shore about 20 meters away from the river. The ratchet was than tightened until enough tension was applied to the cables to secure the bridge.
Upon completion of the Assault Float Bridge across the Main River, spectators of the event were allowed to cross the newly erected bridge to the other side of the shoreline. Soldiers, family members and local nationals crossed the bridge in celebration of the engineers' hard work.
The mettle and muscle of soldiers of the 1st Armored Division, the 130th Engineer Brigade's 502nd Engineer Company and the 12th Aviation Brigade came together on 17 November 2001 to quickly bridge and cross the Main River. River crossing operations were a major mission in the real world, especially in Europe where there were many rivers. The training included a 2-hour classroom session on river-crossing operations, followed by a live demonstration of building an actual bridge across the Main.
This was an opportunity to integrate echelons above division units with training. Unit leaders learned that river-crossing was a multi-phased event. Before building a bridge, engineers first constructed rafts to ferry equipment across the river, equipment that might be needed to fight an enemy on the far shore.
The most critical part of a bridging operation was the rafting phase, where the unit's combat power used rafts to secure the far side of the river. Once that was accomplished, then the area was secure enough to begin actual bridging operations. Teamwork and synchronization were vital to success. It's important to get the proper equipment at the right time. One had to get the ramp bays and the interior bays in the correct sequence for it to work.
Following the events of 11 September 2001, the 502nd Engineer Company (Multi-Role Bridge) deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from January to September 2003 and constructed the longest float bridge ever in combat: the Birthday Bridge in Tikrit, Iraq spanning 580 meters.
During a second deployment to Iraq, from September 2004 to September 2005, the 502nd Engineer Company removed the longest Mabey-Johnson Float Bridge in Iraq, the Hait Jordan.
Over the course of 15 months from September 2006 to December 2007, the 502nd Engineer Company conducted over 100 bridging missions, 30 boat patrol missions on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and led 2 bridge training courses for the Iraqi Engineer School while deployed for a third time to Iraq. It also received and inventoried over 4000 meters of bridge that was expected to be crucial to Iraq's logistical infrastructure for years to come. In all, the 502nd Engineer Company maintained and restored more key infrastructure during its 15 months than any other unit in combat history.
The unit moved to Fort Knox, Kentucky in June 2008, as part of a restructuring of US Army elements in Germany and the transformation of the US Army as a whole to the modular force structure. There the 502nd Engineer Company was assigned to the 19th Engineer Battalion.
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