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Lt. Col. has Army homecoming as new leader of Fort Bliss battalion

Lt. Col. Jake Cecka, new commander of the 16th Engineer Battalion is thrilled to be at Fort Bliss, excited about his new job and can’t wait to start training his soldiers to go on their next big mission.

DAVID BURGE/THE EL PASO TIMES (TNS)

By DAVID BURGE | The El Paso Times (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 4, 2018

The new commander of the 16th Engineer Battalion is thrilled to be at Fort Bliss, excited about his new job and can’t wait to start training his soldiers to go on their next big mission.

Lt. Col. Jake Cecka, a 40-year-old from Bellingham, Wash., took command of the 16th Engineers with 1st Brigade on Nov. 16.

“We love it here,” Cecka said.

El Paso is “probably one of the most friendly big cities I’ve ever been in, and there is a lot of support for the military here,” Cecka said.

Most recently, Cecka and his family spent two years in Belgium where he served as the joint engineer operations officer at NATO headquarters.

“We are glad to be back in America and to be back in a very friendly city,” he said.

His new assignment also marks an Army homecoming for Cecka. In 2001, when he was a young second lieutenant, his first assignment was serving as a platoon leader with the 16th Engineer Battalion when it was stationed in Germany.

“It is cool to come back to where I started from, to have the honor and privilege of being the battalion commander,” Cecka said.

Cecka and his family have never been stationed at Fort Bliss before, but they have already gotten busy exploring the local area, going to places like White Sands National Monument.

Professionally, Cecka will lead his battalion on a traditional gated train-up, culminating with a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., in fall 2018 with the rest of 1st Brigade.

Cecka has gone on three training rotations at NTC in the past and to the combat-training center in Germany, now called the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, three times as well.

He expects his unit and the rest of 1st Brigade to be thoroughly challenged when it goes to NTC.

“It is designed to stress you, so you can learn from your mistakes and learn from how you are operating,” he said. “It will be difficult, but we will do our best to prepare for it and do our best to execute while we are there.”

The Catamounts, as the battalion is nicknamed, are a classic support or enabler battalion. The battalion has combat engineer, signal and military intelligence expertise and capabilities that are used by the rest of the brigade.

"Our job is to make sure the brigade commander and maneuver units can accomplish their missions,” Cecka said.

Cecka said he wants to emphasize streamlining administrative systems within the battalion to make them more efficient and to make sure they are not wasting soldiers’ time. He also plans to emphasize having a clear-cut training calendar so soldiers know when they are out in the field and more importantly, when they can count on being home.

Maj. Rich Knox, the battalion executive officer from Eustis, Fla., said Cecka brings “a lot of enthusiasm, some great ideas, a lot of great energy, great leadership and a great atmosphere.”

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©2018 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)
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