– Mark this date; history was made.
On Aug. 30, 2009, the 46th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy), Fort Polk, and the 101st Engineer Battalion, Massachusetts National Guard, swapped places in a symbolic transfer of authority at Camp Liberty, Baghdad.
As the Steel Spike (46th) steps down, the Nation’s Oldest (101st) rises to fill their place in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Serving in Iraq for 15 months, the 46th has been awaiting the moment of departure. Ironically, after nearly three months of mobilization training, the 101st Engineer Battalion has been eager to take the helm.
The 101st Engineer Battalion has a long and distinguished record of service to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Nation that dates back over 373 years. The unit partook in numerous conflicts ranging from the Colonial Wars to the present day Global War on Terror. Answering the call yet again, the 101st began its journey to Iraq in mid-June 2009. The only organic units come in the form of Headquarters Support Company and Forward Support Company, both hailing from Massachusetts. The other units to join are the 1434th Engineer Company (Vertical) from Michigan, the 1192nd Engineer Company (Horizontal) from Ohio, and the 621st Survey & Design Team from North Carolina. Though each unit left their home stations as separate units, they all came together to form one unified battalion at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. The 101st Engineer Battlion Command Sgt. Maj. Peter Chase stated that the unit “came together faster and closer than I could have hoped for.”
From June until the beginning of August, the 101st worked long and hard to validate on necessary mobilization tasks that included construction effects, convoy operations, and base defense. Once August rolled around, the 101st was deemed ready and flew off to Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
In Kuwait, the Nation’s Oldest acclimated to the harsh desert environment while focusing on IED defeat training, convoy operations, counter-insurgency briefings, and weapons familiarization. Following a two week stay at Camp Buehring, the 101st packed up for Baghdad.
Arriving in mid-August to Iraq, the 101st conducted relief in place operations under the guidance of the 46th. The intent of this transition is to familiarize an incoming unit with the current battlefield environment and to offer advice on how to conduct in-theater operations. Chase noted that because of the Steel Spike Battalion, “the RIP/TOA (relief in place/transition of authority) had been smooth because of our leaders in the 101st and of the 46th prepared us for success.”
In a symbolic transfer of authority ceremony, Maj. Gen. Daniel Bolger, commanding general, Multi-National Division Baghdad, stated that “every combat engineer battalion that comes to Iraq comes to fight and to work.” He conveyed to each Soldier his satisfaction of a job well done by the 46th while offering a few words to the Soldiers of the 101st. “The 101st is tough, smart…ready to fight, ready to work, which makes it easier for the 46th go home today with honor,” he said.
While the future remains uncertain, the Nation’s Oldest is prepared with full confidence to meet the upcoming challenges that lies ahead.