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    Engineers complete CMRE

    Engineers complete CMRE

    Photo By Amabilia Payen | Soldiers assigned to the 877th Engineer Battalion deplane the aircraft Nov. 26 that...... read more read more



    Story by Amabilia Payen 

    Mobilization and Deployment, DPTMS Fort Bliss

    FORT BLISS, Texas - In accordance with the commander in chief’s strategic plan to stop combat operations by the end of 2014, eight Army National Guard units and one U.S. Army Reserve engineer unit completed retrograde missions in Afghanistan under the U.S. Army Central Command’s Material Recovery Element organization.

    In the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, all nine units returned to the United States at the Silas L. Copeland Arrival/Departure Air Control Group Airfield in a mass demobilization.

    The units were: 220th Engineer Company from Festus, Missouri; 252nd Engineer Company from Johnstown, Pennsylvania; 379th Engineer Company from Pittsfield, Massachusetts; 829th Engineer Company from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin; 1191st Engineer Company from Portsmouth, Ohio; 1305th Engineer Team Survey and Design from Hamilton, Alabama; and 1413th Engineer Company from Franklin, Indiana. These companies were task-organized under the 315th Engineer Battalion (USAR), Camp Pendleton, California, and the 877th Engineer Battalion from Haleyville, Alabama, who also returned to Fort Bliss and will demobilize alongside the companies.

    The mission of the CMRE is to conduct materiel reduction and engineer deconstruction operations in Afghanistan to save valuable military equipment and return operating bases to the Afghan Local Police or the Afghan National Army.

    Nov. 23, Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, adjutant general of the Pennsylvania National Guard, was at the ADACG to welcome home the first flight of engineers.

    “It was a very important mission that all the companies did. They dismantled the forward operating bases and helped ship out the excess military stuff, continued to improve routes and roads. They have left the country with a much better infrastructure. It was a good mission for all of the engineers coming home today,” said Craig. “In Pennsylvania, our state was in touch with them and sent them gifts, so anyone that has done that for our Soldiers, I want to say thank you very much.”

    For many Soldiers assigned to these units, breaking down and closing FOBs was a realization to an end of an era in the country of Afghanistan.

    “It was frustrating for some people seeing us tear down structures that were just built,” said Capt. Evan Washburn, commander of the 1191st Engineer Company. “But once they understood it was for the greater good, it was so we could responsibly turn it over to Afghanistan, I think everybody appreciated the mission a little more at that point.”

    Master Sgt. Larry Crosby, senior human resources noncommissioned officer for the 877th Engineer Battalion, deployed all three times his unit conducted engineer tasks for Operation Enduring Freedom, since the beginning of the war.

    “We’ve seen all three operations,” said Crosby. “We’ve seen the initial operation in 2003, the ongoing operation in 2009, and the closing operation today in 2014. We’ve actually had to handle all three phases and it’s been different every time. This last time was a little more challenging because nobody came into to relieve us, we were closing out.”

    Capt. Michael Paluczak, commander of the 220th Engineer Company believed his unit’s greatest feat was closing down Camp Leatherneck.

    “Well, it went from being a base that had a very large number of people on it to nothing, to zero U.S. presence on it whatsoever. The base was the size of a small city, so imagine how big that is, and then reducing it, taking down tents, buildings and then prepping it to hand it over to the Afghan National Army,” said Paluczak.

    “We were split amongst RC-East and RC-North in four different bases, accomplished 1,133 man hours, and had no severe accidents and very minor injuries,” said Capt. Kyle Gruber, commander, 829th Engineer Company. “Our unit was responsible for retrograding and shutting down FOB Shank, Camp Marmal, and also retrograding $12.6 million of engineer equipment on Bagram, back to the states. I think looking back, it’ll be neat to see that this was the only time CMRE was stood up and I can say that I was a part of that and my unit was a part of that, and we were busy, very busy.”

    Lt. Col. Kelton Pankey, commander of the 877th Engineer Battalion expressed his happiness of being home in time for the holidays.

    “We were just able to accomplish a lot of work in a very short period of time, and we did that with a very competent staff and very competent units that were subordinate to us,” said Pankey.

    The focus for all nine of these units is now demobilization and re-integration with their families and their civilian jobs. The first step is completing the demobilization process through the Mobilization and Deployment office of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, here, then they fly home once the demobilization process is completed.

    “I think demobilization is very important, and I think Fort Bliss does a wonderful job,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general for the Wisconsin National Guard. “What has changed, is obviously, it has slowed down a little bit, but I don’t think the quality has changed which is important. It is a very important process because we are going from active duty back to the citizen-Soldier, the civilian life, so that transition is very important.”

    Yet, many Soldiers who returned home during the week of Nov. 23-27, don’t hesitate to thank those that supported them while they conducted the historical CMRE mission.

    “We received a lot of support from many different organizations,” said Paluczak. “They were all from Missouri and they did an outstanding job. We thank them for everything.”

    Sgt. Andrew Jackson, combat engineer with the 252nd Engineer Company, was thankful to all the organizations that sent care packages to him and his team. This experience was his first deployment and he was excited to finally return to the states.

    “I’m thankful in being able to travel the world and meet new people,” said Jackson. “I used to work at a car dealership, and now I’m going to get back into school. I learned how to work together with a team, and I can take that into my civilian life.”

    “We are just proud and pleased as can be. We love these soldiers for all the hard work that they have done the service that they have given our nation, and we are thrilled that were able to get home before the holidays,” said Brig. Gen. Lew Irwin, commanding general of the 416th Theater Engineering Command.

    As the end of 2014 approaches, so does the goal of reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan, and the MaD office of DPTMS has assisted in the demobilization of these engineer units, totaling a number of 1,246 Soldiers, and all will be home in time for the holidays.



    Date Taken: 12.01.2014
    Date Posted: 12.18.2014 18:32
    Story ID: 150691
    Location: FORT BLISS, TX, US 
    Hometown: CAMP PENDLETON, CA, US
    Hometown: CHIPPEWA FALLS, WI, US
    Hometown: FESTUS, MO, US
    Hometown: FORT BLISS, TX, US
    Hometown: FRANKLIN, ID, US
    Hometown: HALEYVILLE, AL, US
    Hometown: HAMILTON, AL, US
    Hometown: JOHNSTOWN, PA, US
    Hometown: PITTSFIELD, MA, US
    Hometown: PORTSMOUTH, OH, US

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