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    663rd Engineer Company returns with vast experience

    663rd Engineer Company returns with vast experience

    Photo By Adam Holguin | Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Yingst, right, briefs Soldiers from the 663rd Engineer Company...... read more read more



    Story by Adam Holguin 

    Mobilization and Deployment, DPTMS Fort Bliss

    FORT BLISS, Texas - The 663rd Engineer Company - Horizontal Construction, a U.S. Army Reserve unit from Sheffield, Alabama, redeployed on Oct. 29 at the Silas L. Copeland Arrival/Departure Air Control Group after completing their mission in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

    The 663rd Engineer Company normally operates as a heavy construction unit, building roads, airfields, and other infrastructure, but due to the continued draw down of forces in Afghanistan this deployment provided an opportunity for the unit to execute a variety of missions.

    “In the beginning we did more force protection, and then as the deployment went forward, the effort changed to deconstruction,” said Capt. Erik Waddell, company commander of the 663rd Engineer Company.

    Waddell was most pleased with the track record the unit established in safety procedures. With almost no injuries, the unit is free to demobilize without a heavy heart.

    “I’d say if I had to brag about anything it’s just the safety and the things that we did in a very dangerous environment with no accidents and no injuries. We brought everybody home, so that to me was mission success,” said Waddell.

    With significantly less American forces in Afghanistan, the need for the iconic Barrack Huts (B-Hut) has never been lower. Chief among the retrograde aspect of the mission was the demolition of B-Huts throughout Afghanistan. The 663rd Engineer Company task to tear down the temporary homes of many Soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan was massive in its volume, with a B-Hut count in the hundreds.

    Another sign of the drawdown in Afghanistan is the planned transfer of authority from the International Security Assistance Force to the Afghan National Security Forces by the end of the year. The 663rd Engineer Company was one of the last horizontal construction companies to conduct Engineer Training Team missions in Afghanistan, a task given to units in support of ISAF.

    “We also had the ETTs, which they trained the Afghan soldiers on engineer tasks so they could take over and do things for themselves,” said Sgt. 1st Class Norman White, noncommissioned officer in charge of personnel for the 663rd Engineer Company.

    The training missions were one of the primary missions for the 663rd Engineer Company, with a platoon that trained Afghan forces for the duration of the deployment.

    “These guys really made an impact. They really built a rapport with the Afghans ... they were taking charge and were actually progressing through their training,” said White.

    Not only were the missions of the 663rd Engineer Company unique in their duties, but their chain of command in the area of operations was also distinct.

    “We fell directly under a brigade, we didn’t have a battalion between us for much of the deployment. That’s tough for a company to do, and all the Soldiers came together, they executed their mission very well, they did it very safely,” said Waddell.

    The 663rd Engineer Company excelled at all missions and came back home with no major injuries, a feat that was recognized by their higher command with a safety excellence streamer.

    “I received some really good feedback from the brigade they were working under in theater. The command sergeant major there sent me an email specifically to tell me what a pleasure it was to have them in their formations, what great work they did, and how successful all the work that they performed was,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Yingst, senior enlisted adviser for the 926th Engineer Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve.

    Yingst traveled from Alabama to greet the Soldiers of the 663rd Engineer Company on behalf of the 926th Engineer Brigade.

    One aspect of demobilizing at Fort Bliss that is appreciated by the Soldiers is getting back to life stateside, something the uniqueness of Freedom Crossing helps with.

    “Fort Bliss is great; I think they have a great thing going with the Freedom Crossing. The Soldiers enjoy the atmosphere, it almost feels like you are at home, where you can go sit down at a restaurant and see people moving around. It’s a good experience, having that here,” said White.

    From force protection to ETTs to retrograde operations, the 663rd Engineer Company was able to complete numerous missions during their nine-month deployment. The final step in their deployment is completing all requirements of the demobilization process with the Mobilization and Deployment branch of the Department of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Safety, after which the Soldiers will depart to their homes of record across 12 different states.



    Date Taken: 11.06.2014
    Date Posted: 11.06.2014 16:37
    Story ID: 147246
    Location: FORT BLISS, TX, US 
    Hometown: SHEFFIELD, AL, US

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