By Andrew SharbelFebruary 19, 2009
Graduates of Fort Belvoir's Engineer Officer Training School returned to the installation Sunday to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Engineer OTS of World War I.
The event, which included a formal dinner, was highlighted by speeches from several guests, including the keynote speaker, Maj. Gen. Don Riley, deputy commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In addition, Fort Belvoir's installation historian, Gus Person, spoke about the history of the Engineer School at Belvoir.
According to The Engineer Officer Candidate School Association, the outbreak of World War I found the U.S. severely short of engineers.
In May 1917, camps were organized to train engineer officers at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. and American University in Washington, D.C. Officer candidates in D.C. used a camp on the Potomac River, then known as Camp Belvoir, for rifle training.
In January 1918, the school was consolidated at Camp Lee in Petersburg, Va. On Aug. 9 of the same year, the school relocated to Camp A.A. Humphreys, Va., now known as Fort Belvoir, under the command of the chief of engineers.
According to the U.S. Army Engineer School Web site, in 1988, after 68 years of the school being at Belvoir, it was moved to its current location at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Col. Mark Moffatt, deputy installation commander for transformation and base realignment and closure, was the third speaker and outlined the ongoing transformation and expansion underway at Belvoir.
During dinner, many of the graduates shared stories of their service and time at OTS and were in awe of how much the installation has changed since they were here.
Gene Grogan, who graduated from OTS in 1952 as part of Class 9, served a year in Korea after graduating.
"When I was in Korea, I served with the 3rd Infantry and worked with an all-volunteer force of Greeks," Grogan said. "Our task was to show them how to build holes in the ground in the mountains of Korea for their protection."
After dinner, Riley spoke about the history of the COE and updated the graduates on the Corps' current projects, both civilian and military.
"We are working day and night to rebuild the infrastructure in Iraq, both with Soldiers and construction battalions," Riley said. "In the [Corps], we have over 750 people at a time overseas; and, 250 of those are military and 500 are civilian."
Riley highlighted the military and civilian projects the COE is tasked with completing.
"In the civilian capacity, we are tasked with building and restructuring canals, bridges, dams and levee systems," Riley said. "In the military program, we are currently constructing buildings on military bases. For instance, at Fort Bliss, Texas, we are building one building every week for next five years.
Riley also said the COE is in the process of developing a military system that will shield Soldiers from improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades in a war zone.
Riley closed his speech by referencing the final scenes of the movie "Saving Private Ryan," where Tom Hanks' character is mortally wounded and tells Ryan to "earn this." The next scene in the movie is an older Ryan asking his wife if he had led a good life.
"After looking back at the history of the Engineer Training School, I know you all have earned it," Riley said. "I thank you for continuing to celebrate your history and the history of our Army and the Engineer School."