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Tri-Component Battalion Makes History in Iraq

101st Airborne Division Release

Release Date: 7/22/2003

101st Public Affairs

(MOSUL, Iraq) - As the only tri-component Army unit, the 52nd Engineer Battalion Combat Heavy brought its unique capabilities to the battlefield by supporting base camps in southern Iraq and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in stabilization operations in Mosul.

The engineer battalion is comprised of an active-duty unit, based at Fort Carson, a reserve company from Santa Fe, N.M. and a National Guard unit from Albany, Ore.

"It's challenging," said former commander Lt. Col. Michael Byrne, who changed command with Lt. Col. Michael Teague July 8 at LSA Diamondback in Mosul. "We try to cover down on weekend drill to provide command over site and vice versa the leadership comes down to Fort Carson (where the battalion is based) as often as possible."

But the distance of the companies across the U.S. was not the greatest challenge in making the unit cohesive.

"I think the biggest challenge was pots of money. Each component had no idea of how to get money for the other," said Command Sgt. Maj. Lester McIntosh, a veteran of the unit since shortly after it's reestablishment in 1999.

What really helped the unit the most was when Byrne took command as a reserve commander and understood where and how to get funds desperately need for the reserve and guard units.

"As a reserve commander he (Byrne) understood and could challenge his reserve component units and soldiers," said Col. Sharon Duffy, 43rd Area Support Group commander at Fort Carson. "He new when they were not giving it their all and he and his command group worked for two years to get this unit ready," she added.

Prior to the deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the battalion only came together once before for a training exercise in South Dakota dubbed Golden Thunder.

Because of Golden Thunder and the fact that they have an active duty company stationed at Fort Carson, the mobilization effort was an easier transition than most reservist encounter.

"The units were better taken care because barracks where already lined up and we had a headquarters element with assets to get the soldiers and their equipment where it needed to be," Byrne said.

The unit deployed to Kuwait and shortly after to Iraqi in April and has since participated in building base camps in Southern Iraq during the war effort and then attaching to the 101st Abn. Div. in stabilization operations in Mosul.

With an never-ending supply of missions the 52nd has found themselves fixing an orphanage, supplying every military compound with shower and latrines and helped fight a sulfur fire about 30 kilometers from Mosul. They also helped fix the plumbing and electrical outlets at the Division Main headquarters and the Civil Military Operations Center.

"They are a heavy battalion which means anything that can be built they can do it," Duffy said. "From cement foundations, to building houses this unit can start and finish any project with their own assets which makes them a vital part of operations here," she added.

From bulldozers to hammers the battalion used every resource to improve the quality of life of not only soldiers but for the people of Iraq who needed the help the most.

This unit is capable of everything and this deployment was an excellent opportunity for the battalion and the soldiers to show they - whether active-duty or reservist - have the ability to work together as a team and be so cohesive that no one would be able to tell one from the other, Duffy said.

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