Engineers celebrate Regiment's lineage at Fort Leonard Wood
June 20, 2012
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- In observance of the 237th Army Engineer birthday, Engineers at Fort Leonard Wood had four days of celebrations last week.
It all started with the 237-mile Engineer Regimental Colors Run that kicked off June 13, ending on June 15 at the John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex.
There, the U.S. Army Engineer Museum conducted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a new exhibit on the Engineers' role in the Global War on Terror.
The exhibit encompasses more than 1,000 square feet -- the largest space devoted to one topic in the museum.
Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Raines, Special Troop Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, is part of the new exhibit and was here from Fort Bliss, Texas for the ribbon cutting.
"It's an honor. Having my photo in this exhibit is kind of embarrassing, because there were a lot of great people in that operation. I wish they could all be here today," Raines said. "I was just lucky to have Jack snap the photo when he did."
Jack Gruber, a USA Today journalist, was also at Fort Leonard Wood to cut the exhibit's ribbon. Gruber was embedded with Raines' group during the 2003 initial run from Kuwait into Baghdad named Objective Peach.
Then a sergeant first class, Raines was deployed in Iraq with Company A, 11th Engineer Battalion, attached to 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment. Gruber's job was to document the Soldiers at work -- a job he didn't take lightly.
"Lt. Col. Ernest 'Rock' Marcone gave me a road map of all of the objectives and said I could be anywhere I wanted to be -- except the rubber boats. He said they were crossing the river as part of Objective Peach and they had to take the bridge or we would be stopped in our tracks. I knew that's where I had to be," Gruber said. "There were four boats. I wanted to document this because it was historic. I was told these boats may not make it across, but I wanted to be in there."
As Gruber watched, the Soldiers captured the bridge and made it to the other side -- some boats in better shape than others, according to Gruber.
"Immediately the engineers were out of the boats fighting -- taking the riverbank with the infantry guys," Gruber said. "The bridge was set to demo, so while they were fighting, they put their heads together and decided what they needed to do. The next thing you know Sgt. Raines is hanging upside down cutting anti-tank mines plastered on this bridge high above the Euphrates River."
Raines said he was so focused on the explosives he didn't even know he Gruber was taking his picture.
"We had to get the explosives off the bridge, because if we didn't, we would have lost control of the bridge and that avenue to Baghdad. In my eyes that was an essential primary crossing at the time. We had already lost two lanes of the four-lane bridge. We had to get the explosives down. It had to be done," Raines said. "The funny thing is we went there with an Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge to try to extend it out to remove all of these explosives, but it wasn't long enough. Thinking about all the engineer training we had practiced, about doing recon and putting ropes under the bridge, it got utilized that day. I wasn't really thinking about it, we just had to do it."
Gruber remembers being petrified during the operation -- but not because there were bullets flying or things exploding around him.
"I was petrified I wasn't going to get the pictures to show what they were doing," Gruber said. "I'm glad I could do my small part to add to this wonderful history."
Brig. Gen. Duke DeLuca, U.S. Army Engineer School commandant, helped Gruber and Raines cut the ribbon.
"It's about time we have something in our classwork and our museums about these last two wars. We've all been so busy fighting we haven't been able to pay attention to remembering what happened so that we can learn from it," DeLuca said. "There are bunch of stories that remain to be told. Objective Peach was the first opposed river crossing executed by the Corps of Engineers since Korea."
Following the ribbon cutting, Engineers mustered at the museum's Engineer Regimental Room for a cake cutting.
A plaque to the Engineer School of the Army was also dedicated at the muster.
"It's a great plaque for a great organization. The Engineer School of the Army has shaped this country in ways that are so significant it's hard to do justice to it," DeLuca said.
Raines believes it's important for Engineers to continue to meet and pass their stories down for generations.
"The history of the Engineers is very important. We have been here since the beginning, and we play such a prominent part behind the scenes that makes a lot of our battles successful. I am proud of the huge heritage there. We connect because of our history and that lineage is important to maintain," Raines said.
DeLuca said, he is also proud of his Engineer heritage.
"Without the Army, there would be no United States of America. Of course, we are two days younger than the Army, but still we (the Engineer Regiment) are 13 months older than the country," DeLuca said.
Saturday, motorcycle enthusiasts participated in a regimental motorcycle ride ending at the Fallen Sapper Memorial where a wreath laying ceremony honored fallen Sappers.
Engineers concluded the birthday observance with a barbecue and fellowship at Engineer Memorial Grove.