By Sgt. 1st Class Christina Bhatti
2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 25th Infantry Division
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – The engineers from the 66th Engineer Company, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team "Warrior," 25th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, are the 2007 winners of the Lt. Gen. Emerson C. Itschner award, recognizing them as the best engineer company in the Army.
"It feels good," said Spc. Jose Diaz, about the recognition. "The last two years of training were hard, and now we are being recognized by the Army as being the best engineer company."
Diaz, a native of Arlington, Texas, who is a combat engineer with the 66th Eng. Co., joined the Army two years ago as a combat engineer. He said the job wasn't really what he wanted to do, but it was a good option and he doesn't regret the decision.
"I was told I was going to build and blow stuff up, and that sounded interesting so I took it," he said.
To prepare for the competition, Diaz said the unit did a lot of demolition training, improvised-explosive device classes, unexploded-ordinance classes and tactical movements.
In truth, there is no preparation for the competition, said 1st Sgt. Jonathan White, the company's senior enlisted leader, who added that his unit was being recognized for the professionalism of his team.
"You just do your mission," said White, a native of San Francisco. "This is just a reflection of what we've accomplished as an organization throughout the course of the year."
The prestige of the award is something which will travel throughout the engineer regiment.
"Every year, you hear about the unit who won the Itscher Award, and they are a unique company or a company who has done awesome things," said Maj. Anthony Barbina, a native of Belmont, Ohio, the unit's commander.
To be considered for the competition, each engineer company was required to submit a book highlighting the unit's accomplishments. For the 66th En. Co., the book was 180 pages.
The companies are judged on various criteria, to include retention, education programs, family readiness groups and the unit's contributions to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Global War on Terrorism.
"It's a reflection of our Soldiers' accomplishments. They take pride in what they do every day," White said. "They have a tremendous amount of spirit."
Being recognized is akin to the "cherry on the ice cream cone," White said, adding that it is a great way to acknowledge what his Soldiers are all about.
Their achievement marks the first time an engineer company from the 25th Inf. Div. has been recognized with this award.
"This is a once in a career achievement for most engineers," said Maj. Anthony Barbina, a native of Belmont, Ohio, who is the unit's commander.
While deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 66th Eng. Co.'s mission is route clearance. The Soldiers tirelessly travel the roads used by Iraqi Security and coalition forces and Iraqi civilians – clearing them of IEDs.
"We are here to defeat the most catastrophic weapon the enemy has, which is the IED," said Barbina "We are here to make sure everyone get to where they need to be safely."
This work, Warrior Sappers lead way for engineers, by MSG Christina Bhatti, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.