The holiday reprieve from deployments for the Connecticut Army National Guard was short-lived.
The 242nd Engineer Detachment (Construction Management Team) is the first Connecticut Army National Guard to deploy in Fiscal Year 2014. The nine- member unit, led by Col. John R. Whitford and Sgt. Major David Moorehead, just departed Connecticut to report to their mobilization station at Fort Bliss, Texas at the time of publication.
The 143d Combat Sustainment Support Battalion arrived home prior to Christmas after a nine-month deployment to Kuwait, ending the Connecticut Army National Guard’s historic period of continuous deployments since March 2003. The Connecticut Air National Guard currently has 12 individual Airmen from the 103d Airlift Wing and the 103d Air Control Squadron forward deployed supporting missions in southwest Asia.
The 242nd’s broad mission capabilities of planning, managing and assessing engineer projects will take the unit to eastern Afghanistan. They will serve as a Corps level asset working as part of Joint Task Force Sapper under the initial command of the 130th Engineer Brigade, a modular, active Army engineer command based out of Fort Schofield Barracks Hawaii.
As part of Task Force Sapper the 242nd will support the extensive effort to deconstruct and consolidate coalition operating bases to coincide with the drawdown of combat forces scheduled for the end of the year. The unit may also work with and train Afghan Army engineers to assume the responsibilities of managing and completing infrastructure improvement projects that are already underway.
The nine-member detachment received its federal recognition in September 2011 and consists of Soldiers in the ranks of specialist to colonel. The unit members are qualified in a variety of specialized positions including technical engineer specialist, horizontal construction sergeant, construction operations sergeant and public works construction management officer.
Although a relatively “young” unit, Whitford is confident that his Soldiers’ diverse military and civilian work experiences will meet the demands of this unique mission.
“What impressed me the most about this unit when I took command in December was the expertise of each and every Soldier — how close they are and the unit cohesion,” he said. “This is a tight knit group and they bring to the table many years of technical engineer experience.”
Six of the nine assigned Soldiers are original unit members including Moorehead, the operations senior noncommissioned officer.
The 242nd Engineer Detachment carries the lineage and honors of the Connecticut Army National Guard’s former 242nd Engineer Battalion which was originally constituted as a coastal artillery corps unit in Bridgeport in 1922.
For Whitford, the Connecticut National Guard’s longtime director of communications at Joint Force Headquarters, this is his first opportunity to deploy overseas.
“The deployment means a lot to me. The unit is made up of a fine group of guys who are technically and tactically proficient,” he remarked. “It will be great to carry on a part of the 242nd legacy and work alongside our active duty engineer counterparts.”