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7th Engineers uncase unit colors after Afghanistan mission

November 8, 2012

By Staff Sgt. Jared Crain

FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- The 7th Engineer Battalion "Task Force Red Devils" uncased the battalion colors, symbolizing their return home from Afghanistan during a ceremony Thursday at Monti Physical Fitness Center.

This is the second time in three years that the 7th Engineers uncase their colors after missions down range.

The battalion assumed mission command for a multifunctional and multicomponent engineer task force that was responsible for all engineer functions throughout much of the Regional Command East region.

Almost immediately, Soldiers were given the mission to support the construction efforts in Ghanzi Province, Afghanistan, for the pending arrival of a U.S. brigade combat team.

"When we arrived on ground, we were asked to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Afghan partners," said Lt. Col. Mark Quander, 7th Engineer Battalion commander.

"We taught, coached and mentored them during the deployment," Quander continued. "And now seven Afghan engineer comp-anies are clearly planning and conducting operations for Afghan National Forces in the Logar and Wardak provinces."

During the deployment, TF Red Devils executed approximately 1,800 route clearance missions, which neutralized a significant number of improvised explosive devices as well as unexploded ordnance.

"The Soldiers on dismounted route clearance mission would at times have to wear 45 pounds of gear at altitudes of 8,000 feet where they walked for 15 to 20 kilometers, with some of the missions lasting for more than 50 hours with constant contact from the enemy, to ensure that they could find and neutralize the explosive hazards," Quander said.

One of the most recent accomplishments was a combined project with 10th Sustainment Brigade and the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Works to make repairs of the Salang Tunnel road network. The tunnel, at nearly 11,000 feet in elevation, represents the major north to south connection in Af-ghanistan, cutting travel time from 72 hours to 10 hours.

"The Soldiers worked in the middle of the night, with an ever expanding scope of work, completing the work 30 days ahead of schedule and under budget," Quander said.

Officials also took time during the ceremony to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the deployment.

"This operation came at a cost, and we will never forget 2nd Lt. David E. Rylander, Spc. Junot M. Legrand Cochilus, Pfc. Jose Oscar Belmontes and Sgt. 1st Class Bobby L. Estle, for they gave all they had to give in the 7th Engineers mission," said Col. Christopher D. Latchford, 10th Sustain- ment Brigade rear detachment commander.

"We also continue our prayers for the wounded warriors as they continue their recovery and hopefully soon return to the ranks with their fellow Soldiers," the colonel added.

Immediately after the uncasing ceremony, the Bronze Star with Valor was awarded to Sgt. Mario A. Mendez and Spc. Zachary A. Krea-mer, both combat engineers assigned to 7th Engineer Battalion, for exceptional courage, dedication and personal courage that directly contributed to the success- ful treatment of two American Soldiers injured during enemy contact.

"What this battalion has accomplished during this deployment is remarkable," Latchford concluded .

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