Engineer battalion reactivates at Schweinfurt
July 17, 2008
SCHWEINFURT, Germany — After lying dormant for 18 years, the 15th Engineer Battalion was again called to active service Wednesday during a ceremony on Conn Barracks.
The reactivation marks the first time since 2001 that a major U.S. Army Europe unit has uncased its colors instead of moving stateside or shutting down, said Bill Chesarek, an Army civilian with USAREUR’s operations section.
The ceremony gave Lt. Gen. Kenneth Hunzeker, V Corps commander, a reason to smile.
"This is a feel-good thing," he said. "After the many casings we’ve done recently … this ceremony makes me proud to see the Engineer crimson uncased here today."
Formed just prior to U.S. involvement in the First World War, the 15th has a long tradition of service — one that its new commander, Lt. Col. David Hurley Jr., was proud to mention. "Somewhere in the Pentagon there’s an instruction that reads, ‘In case of war, activate the 15th Engineer Battalion,’ " Hurley said as he addressed those attending.
Having been in Schweinfurt just three months, Hurley said that although his battalion is authorized 700 soldiers, just 210 engineers fill its ranks now. Many of those are green troops fresh out of training.
"We’re using a small core of excellent [noncommissioned officers] to bring those guys along," Hurley said.
One of the NCOs helping mentor the new soldiers is Cpl. Jason Blashka, 23, who, as a five-year veteran and former Marine, is working in his first Army unit.
"Anytime we’ve needed something from one of the other units here, they’ve supported us," Blashka said of the welcome the 15th is receiving from others in the community.
Likening the help to borrowing a cup of sugar from a neighbor, Blashka said that although much work remains before the 15th is completely stood up, working in Schweinfurt has been nothing but good.
The addition of the unit also fills the void of losing more than 1,000 soldiers to Grafenwöhr over the last several months when the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade was reassigned.
"It’s great to be a part of bringing a construction engineer unit to Europe, especially one with this history … it’s a tremendous role. We know we’ll have an important mission," Hurley said.