SCHWEINFURT, Germany — A Schweinfurt unit was recently selected as the best engineer unit in the U.S. Army.

Soldiers of Company C, 9th Engineer Battalion from 1st Infantry Division’s Engineer Brigade learned last week they earned the Lt. Gen. Emerson G. Itschner Award for 2002. The Itschner Award honors the Army’s active-duty engineer company that has excelled in a variety of areas, including combat and peace operations, training, morale and welfare, and recruiting and retention.

To compete for the award, engineer companies must prepare a packet with photos and documentation that support combat and peace support tasks, construction, training, soldier professional development, recruiting and retention, soldier morale and welfare, safety, and contributions to the Corps of Engineers, said Capt. Brian Hackenberg, Company C commander.

The company won at the 9th Engineer Battalion level before taking top honors at the U.S. Army Europe and Department of the Army levels.

During the period judged, from January-December 2002, Company C had about 80 soldiers deployed to Kosovo for a peacekeeping mission from May to November. While there, the soldiers performed mostly force protection duties, Hackenberg said.

The unit’s mission normally would involve supporting a battalion-size task force by providing battlefield mobility, limiting transportation routes for the enemy and digging holes both for firing positions, Hackenberg said.

However, the soldiers did get opportunities to perform engineer missions, such as blowing up roads to prevent trafficking of drugs or weapons, he added.

Still, the company’s return to Kosovo after a six-month rotation in 1999 was not as high profile as engineer companies that deployed to Afghanistan last year. The unit’s acting first sergeant didn’t expect Company C to win the coveted Itschner Award this year.

“Given the current world state, peacekeeping operations are really not that sexy compared to the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Sgt. 1st Class Victor Rodriguez said.

“I think a lot of the younger soldiers were disappointed to be in Kosovo [instead of Afghanistan],” Hackenberg said. “It’s just a lot more sexy, more appealing to them.”

Although they may not have seen as much action in Kosovo as their counterparts did in Afghanistan, the soldiers can boast they are the best in the engineer corps this year.

“This is all about the soldiers; they accomplished this for the company,” Hackenberg said.

“A lot of times, soldiers do things that go unnoticed,” Rodriguez said. “Their efforts didn’t go in vain this time.”

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