Company A, 82nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, was presented the coveted Itschner Award during a ceremony June 6 at Fort Riley.
The award is named in honor of Lt. Gen. Emerson C. Itschner, who served as the Army chief of engineers from 1956-1961, and denotes the most outstanding U.S. Army engineering company during a year, according to the Society of American Military Engineers which first issued the award in 1960.
"I've said to a lot of Soldiers and Sappers that we've dealt with 'the Army doesn't judge you on just one thing, they judge you on a body of work,'" said Col. Kevin Brown, U.S. Army Engineer School assistant commandant, after presenting the award to "Apocalypse" Company. "This company has demonstrated, not just in one event but in several events over a span of a year, that they have not only been exceptional at one or two things, but they have been consistent. That's what we need in our army units and in our leaders."
Apocalypse Company is led by Capt. Billy Thomson, commander, and 1st Sgt. Jason Hellstrom, senior noncommissioned officer. According to Thomson, a monthly working group dedicated their time to consistently document the unit's accomplishments. This resulted in a binder with more than 130 pages meeting the criteria of the Itschner Award.
"The hard work of the Soldiers and the attitude," Thomson said, "really, the stagehand mentality as I like to say. It's consistent with offensive linemen, everybody who does the dirty work in any organization you can think of. It's the grit, determination and hard work of all the Soldiers and all of our leaders and our families who support us at the end of the day."
The award requires that the unit seek excellence in their collective and individual training as well as within their community. The submission included quantitative and qualitative documentation ranging from gunnery to community partnerships.
"We seek employment, because that is how we stay engaged," Thomson said. "That is how we contribute to successes in mobility, counter mobility, survivability and general engineering. We seek employment in all those areas."
Since it was first awarded in 1960 and subsequently opened up to the National Guard and Army Reserves in 1974, Apocalypse Company has earned the Itschner Award twice. The first time, the unit was active in Germany in 2000.
"There have only been three engineer companies who have won it twice," Hellstrom said. "We'll be the first to win it three times."
Apocalypse Company's leaders focused on maintaining the standards that helped them achieve the Itschner Award.
"What we do is to continue the great image of the Corps of Engineers, because 'Essayons' means 'let us try' and that's what we've always been about," Thomson said, referencing the Latin motto of the engineers.