Even in these days when soldiers seem to be deployed on a regular basis to far away places like Iraq and Afghanistan, Germany and South Korea, what happened here on Saturday was a rare occurrence.
The U.S. Army Reserves gave rise to a new unit, one that will be based in the U.S. Army Reserve Training Center in Knightdale. The 363rd Engineer Battalion will train one weekend each month and two weeks during the summer. The battalion of just over 100 men and women will train in what the army calls mobility, countermobility and sustainability. In layman’s terms, they will learn how to build roads, bridges and buildings and how to destroy them in the event an enemy threatens to take them over.
Maj. Gen. Tracy Thompson congratulated the members of the new battalion on being part of an unusual undertaking.
“I’ve been in the Army for 34 years and this is the first time I’ve ever been in the delivery room,” Thompson said, referring to the birth of the new army unit.
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“But our new unit isn’t like a normal delivery room birth. Our unit comes out of the delivery room with high expectations that you will be able to meet the demands placed upon the unit.”
The battalion will be led by Lt. Col. Joseph Amon, who has served in reserve units in Michigan and North Carolina. He saw active duty in Iraq and served as a liaison officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As a civilian, he has served as a project manager for both commercial and federal construction projects in places such as Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This marks his first battalion command, a prospect he said is both exciting and challenging. “Part of the challenge is that so many members of this battalion are new, fresh out of boot camp, so we have to build a culture and set high expectations, because we have to be ready when we’re called upon,” Amon said.
Most of the battalion’s new members are from the Triangle area, but some including Amon and Battalion Sgt. Maj. Lavell Barrett live as far away as Asheville and Charlotte.
But Amon said Knightdale was the best place to locate the new unit, which will be part of the 411th Engineer Brigade.
“The Army did a lot of research before they settled on a place to base this unit,” Amon said. “This area had a lot of the people we needed in close proximity and this facility is perfect for what we do.”
Though this is the first time this battalion has been activated in its current form, it can trace its lineage back to World War II, when it was first constituted as the 2nd Battalion of the 82 Engineer Combat Regiment in 1942. It was later redesignated as the 291st Engineer Combat Battalion and deactivated in 1945. The unit was reorganized and redesignated as the 262rd Engineer Combat Battalion based in Kentucky in 1948 and inactivated in 1950.
Soldiers in the unit saw action at Normandy, in Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and in Central Europe.
Saturday’s brief ceremony included remarks by Thompson, Amon and Brigade Commander Col. Ralph Herring. The event also included the ceremonial uncasing of the unit’s colors. Barrett handed off a covered flag to 411th Brigade Sgt. Maj. Michael Boyd who passed it to Herring. Herring uncovered the flag and unfurled the colors before handing them off to Amon signaling the official beginning of his command.