CONCORD, Mass. –
“Our motto ‘Victory Starts Here’ literally means here … where we are, along this road” said Lt. Col. Shawn Cody, to the Soldiers gathered along an intersection of two dirt paths.
Here is the stretch of road in the Minuteman National Historic Park, known as the Battle Road. It was on this road that members of the Massachusetts militia engaged the British Army and fought the first battles of the American Revolution along the Old North Bridge, the Lexington Green, and continuing back to Boston on April 19, 1775. Several of the militia units that fought that day belonged to the East [or Essex] Regiment. The reason that Cody, the commander of the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s 101st Engineer Battalion, had his Guardsmen on the road August 1 is because the 101st traces their lineage to the East Regiment.
“It allows us the opportunity to pay tribute to those who came before us.” said Cody. “90 percent of the Soldiers (assigned to the 101st Engineers) had never done the Battle Road. We thought it was a great opportunity to exercise all levels of battalion operations while also building esprit de corps.”
In small groups the Guardsmen marched along most of the Concord and Lincoln sections of the Battle Road. They stopped at key battles sites such as Merriam’s Corner, the Bloody Angle, Hartwell Tavern, Parker’s Revenge and Fiske Hill. They discussed what happened at each battle site.
“It was really cool. I liked all the history that we’ve learned today. You actually get to see where these fights happened, instead of reading about it in a textbook” said Pvt. Jeremey Monmaney, communications security and radio repairer, 101st Forward Support Company. “I feel after doing this … it really does remind us why we signed up and what we’re doing here.”
The march was much more than just a history lesson.
“This started a year ago, planning this mission,” said Cody. “We were able to exercise our battle command, all the way from battalion down to the squad level. At the battalion we conduct what is called military decision making process. The staff does mission analysis, they go through orders preparation. All the staff works together with the commanders and they produce an operations order which has annexes in it, coordinating instructions, the mission, execution, et cetera.”
These behind scenes skills are just as important and perishable as the skills these combat engineers needed to construct a building, lay a road, or blow up an obstacle on the battlefield.
“This exercise … enables us to exercise all the things we need to do no matter what the mission is,” said Cody, “If we were going to take a hill from the enemy, it would be the same process.”
After all the sections finished the march, the battalion gathered at the Old North Bridge in Concord for a special ceremony. There Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard, placed the Lexington Campaign streamer on the battalion’s flag. In the U.S. Army, a unit is awarded a battle streamer in recognition of a campaign it has served in. The Lexington Campaign streamer is the oldest streamer in the U.S. Army. Only three other units are authorized to display the streamer, the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s 181st and 182nd Infantry Regiments and the 125th Quartermaster Company.
There was a large contingent of the battalion’s Soldiers that were not present for the march. The battalion’s 379th Engineer Company is currently deployed in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.