Commander: 'Doing our best to be ready'
HEIDELBERG, Germany — Gears started turning this week in V Corps’ war machine as troops prepare for an open-ended deployment to Southwest Asia, amid a pending conflict with Iraq.
Carving a path for V Corps will be construction troops from the 94th Engineer Battalion (Heavy), who have a wartime mission to build roads, bases and airfields to support a follow-on combat force.
“We’re like a Swiss Army knife for the Corps commander,” said Lt. Col. Paul Grosskruger, commander of the Vilseck-based engineers.
The battalion makes up much of the 800 V Corps troops who received deployment orders on New Year’s Eve. More units are expected to be called up this month, Corps officials said.
Next week, the battalion will undertake a mammoth step — loading about 400 engineer vehicles onto trains, Grosskruger said. Then it will head southwest to an undisclosed location.
About three-quarters of the battalion’s 710 troops will deploy, Grosskruger said. The rest will handle rear detachment operations, supporting deployed soldiers and caring for the families who stay behind.
The battalion has two companies at Rose Barracks in Vilseck, as well as one at Hohenfels, and another at Grafenwöhr.
Grosskruger’s “Wolverines” are no strangers to deployment.
In fact, during the past decade, the hammer-swinging Joes were part of several U.S. missions in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
After Desert Storm, the battalion supported Operation Provide Comfort, an effort to stabilize Kurds in Northern Iraq. When U.S. troops entered Macedonia in 1994, battalion engineers built roads and base camps.
In Bosnia, the battalion was out front again, building much of the infrastructure for Task Force Eagle. Over the past seven years, battalion troops have deployed to Bosnia several times, Grosskruger said.
But their largest recent task was in 1999, when V Corps asked them to build Camp Bondsteel, home to peacekeepers in Kosovo. Battalion troops took part in rotations to the Serbian province several times in the past three years.
“Normally, a large unit like this has its pieces deployed a lot,” Grosskruger said.
A November rotation to Kosovo was canceled, Grosskruger said, to give the battalion a chance to prepare for the current deployment. A scheduled project in Tunisia also was wiped from the chalkboard.
In recent weeks, troops trained on everything from soldier basics to the more technical aspects of their jobs.
“We’ve been like a lot of folks,” Grosskruger said. “Anticipating and doing our best to be ready.”
Squads practiced protecting themselves from nuclear, biological and chemical attacks, and reviewed the “engineer playbook,” a reference manual that spells out various construction projects a battalion might be asked to perform, Grosskruger said.
Several other V Corps units also got their marching orders this week.
Two maintenance support teams from the Vilseck-based 317th Maintenance Company will deploy with the engineers, said Maj. David Accetta, a 3rd Corps Support Command spokesman. The teams have trained with the battalion in the past, he said.
“Our [teams] normally support the 94th Engineers here in Central Region and have a habitual working relationship supporting this unit,” Accetta said.
Soldiers from the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade from Hanau and the 22nd Signal Brigade of Darmstadt are also slated to leave soon.
In October, about 550 troops from V Corps’ 11th Aviation Brigade deployed to Kuwait with attack helicopters.
And last month, 450 soldiers from V Corps headquarters staff deployed to Kuwait to support Internal Look, a U.S. Central Command exercise. About 100 remained with V Corps’ equipment over the holidays to keep the command post up and running.
Now, troops are rotating into the theater, said Maj. Dean Thurmond, a V Corps spokesman.
Commanded by Lt. Gen. William Wallace, V Corps is headquartered in Heidelberg. The majority of U.S. combat troops in Europe, including the 1st Infantry Division and 1st Armored Division, fall under Wallace’s command.
The current deployments come amid plans for Victory Scrimmage – strategic training for leaders from the two Europe-based divisions, the 1st Infantry Division and the 1st Armored Division. Staff from the U.S.-based 1st Cavalry Division and 101st Airborne Division will take part in the V Corps’ exercises, scheduled to begin in mid-January.