Soldiers from the 618th Engineer Company, 19th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps won the Lt. Gen. Emerson C. Itschner award May 23, recognizing them as the best engineer company in the U.S. Army.
This is the third time that the 618th’s “Nasty” Engineers have won the coveted Itschner award, which is only handed out to the best of the best.
The Itschner award, named in honor of Lt. Gen. Emerson C. Itschner, the 39th Chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is presented each year to the most outstanding active duty, Reserve and National Guard Engineer units throughout the Army.
In order to be eligible for the Itschner Award, a unit must be selected at every level, from their battalion, to their brigade and finally their major command. Once they are approved, they advance to the Army level where the branch evaluates the nomination packets and selects a winner.
For some Soldiers, like Spc. Robert Schaefer, general construction equipment operator for the past three years, winning the award came as a surprise.
“I didn’t think we were going to win until my dad got an e-mail saying that we did,” said the New Orleans native.
The unit was awarded the Itschner for its accomplishments in 2006, many of which happened since they deployed to Mosul in August.
The 618th is completely committed to the counter-improvised explosive device fight in Mosul, with three platoons operating nightly in the city providing Col. Stephen Twitty, commander, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, assured mobility, said 1st Lt. Lyndi Koch, support platoon leader, originally from Fort Lauderdale, Fla..
One way that they assure mobility is by repairing IED craters, which denies the enemy the terrain used to emplace IEDs, added Koch.
The company, she said, became the premier unit for airfield crater repair and the techniques they developed there are now being used to enhance their ability to fix roadways and structural surfaces throughout the 4th BCT’s battle space.
“The crater repair that we do has the biggest influence on Soldiers in Iraq and the routes that they take,” said Pfc. Torres Ferguson, general construction equipment operator and Moultrie, Ga. native. “What we do keeps us safe. We do a lot of projects [for Soldiers and the people of Iraq] to feel safer each time we complete a job.”
Regardless of rank or job title, the 618th Soldiers are enthusiastic about winning the award.
“We feel a great sense of pride in the company and being a part of something this big,” said Koch. “Winning the award three times says a lot about the values, dedication and hard work of the 618th.”
The 618th is the only company to receive the Lt. Gen. Emerson C. Itschner award three times, previously winning it in 1964 and 1995.
By Pfc. Bradley J. Clark