18th Engineer Brigade unfurls its colors in Germany
HEIDELBERG, Germany — Soldiers on Tuesday unfurled the colors of the 18th Engineer Brigade, a U.S. Army Europe asset that will oversee construction on bases as well as lead a deployed engineer task force.
Under the command of Col. William H. McCoy, the brigade will be headquartered at Campbell Barracks and will oversee base constructions and plan for engineer deployments.
“It’s prudent to do this now, with all the things that are going on,” McCoy said. “Everybody is planning.”
McCoy, who will also serve as the top engineer for USAREUR commander Gen. B.B. Bell, is due for promotion to brigadier general within the next six months.
For 15 years, the brigade supported USAREUR before closing shop in 1992 amid Armywide force cuts. But after an ad hoc engineer team responded to a 1993 crisis in Rwanda, USAREUR realized they had a “command and control gap,” McCoy said.
Then engineers supported peacekeepers in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Kosovo. USAREUR planners definitely began to see the need for reinstating the brigade to plan for deployments as well as support established bases in Europe, McCoy said.
“This allows the USAREUR commander to be more responsive,” McCoy said.
After three years of planning, the Pentagon approved activation for October 2004, but allowed the unit to stand up early, McCoy said.
On bases in Europe, the brigade will focus first on construction that helps troops, McCoy said. That could mean anything from paving streets in Kitzingen to building a post office in Friedberg, said McCoy, citing past projects.
From there, the brigade will focus on contingency planning, and prepare for deployment should USAREUR call upon them. A USAREUR engineer brigade will also allow the Hanau-based 130th Engineer Brigade to focus on its wartime mission — supporting V Corps, McCoy said. Two V Corps engineer units, the 94th Engineer Battalion from Vilseck and the 54th Engineer Battalion from Kitzingen, have been ordered to duty in the Persian Gulf.
A third mission for the new brigade involves supporting NATO in military cooperation with former-Soviet countries. The brigade’s first mission will be to support Cornerstone, a construction project in Romania, McCoy said.
USAREUR recently lost much of its staff to support the Intstallation Management Agency Europe region, a restructuring that separates troops operations from base functions. On July 30, just two days after McCoy arrived in the theater, the change occurred — leaving him with only 20 military engineers.
“I gave up 90 percent of my staff,” McCoy said.
Now, McCoy’s brigade officers and enlisted troops are transfering into the unit from positions within USAREUR. McCoy hopes to have 110 troops on staff by October, but with augmentation the brigade could be able to deploy by summer, he said.