||Histories for HSC, 368th Engineer
History of the 368th Engineer Battalion
HISTORY OF THE 368TH ENGINEER BATTALION
The compilation of the history of an Army Reserve unit is no simple matter. Unlike Active units, there is no official history available in the Army?s archives. We had to do our own. We have attempted to put together the missing pieces of over fifty years of our battalion?s proud and continuous service. We realize it is still incomplete. We hope that those who have served our battalion in the past will forgive our omissions and errors and will help us to restore those missing pieces. In this way, a complete and accurate history can be maintained on the proud heritage of an Engineer unit which hs given so generously of itself to the New England community, the nation and even in the international area.
THE FORTIES AND FIFTIES
The 368th Engineer Battalion is entitled to the history battle honors and colors formerly belonging to the 203rd Engineer Combat Battalion, which was activated on 25 February 1942 at Camp McCain, Mississippi. On 20 August 1943, the battalion arrived at T. Pierce, Florida for amphibious training and then moved to Camp Pickett, Virginia on 11 October 1943. On 21 December 1943, the battalion arrived at Camp Shanks, New York, its Port of Embarkation, and departed for England aboard the ?Aquitania? on 2 January 1944. On 6 June 1944 the battalion participated in the Normandy invasion and was in Belgium by Christmas of 1944. On 28 February 1945, the unit entered Germany and continued to fight until VE Day on 7 May 1945. In June of 1945, the battalion was back in France waiting movement to the Southwest Pacific Theater. Fortunately, this movement was never required and the 203rd was inactivated in France on 8 October 1945. For its distinguished WWII service, the battalion was awarded battle credit for the Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns. These campaigns are represented by the battle streamers on the battalion?s colors (flag). The battalion was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre.
The 203rd Engineer Combat Battalion was redesigned as the 368th Engineer Combat Battalion in the Organized Reserves, assigned to First Army and activated at Manchester, NH on 22 April 1947 with an authorized strength of 31 officers and 3 warrant officers under the command of LTC Wynam P. Boynton. In December 1948, the battalion moved to Concord, NH and was turned over to LTC Robert D. Hunter with a total strength of 11 men. On 1 July 1950, the 368th was redisignated as an Engineer Construction Battalion and on 12 July 1950, the battalion?s companies were finally formed. Headquarters & Headquarters Service Company were in Concord, as was D Company. B Company was in Lanconia, NH and C Company was in Claremont, NH. With this increase in strength, the battalion went to Pine Came, New York (Later known as Camp Drum and then Fort Drum) with 81 men in 1951. During the fifties, the 368th went to Camp Drum five times, Camp Edwards, Massachusetts once and to Fort Belvoir, Virginia four times.
Reserve centers were moved frequently throughout the fifties. The most notable change was for B Company. On 5 March 1957, their Reserve Center burned to the ground, forcing them to find another home. There were originally only four companies in the 368th, but in 1958, the Army attached the 785th Engineer Company (Field Maintenance) to the battalion, locating it at first in Laconia and them moving it to Rochester, NH.
1955 brought one change of note. The Army assigned a full time civilian to the battalion to maintain the records and administration between drill periods. The first man to hold this position was Mr. Arnie Foote, who remained with the battalion until the seventies.
By the end of the decade, the 368th?s authorized strength was 22 officers, 10 warrants and 682 enlisted. LTC Bernard H. Langley, MAJ Donald M. Richards and LTC Carl E. Nason had also commanded the battalion.
This decade saw real change in the organization, structure and mission of the battalion. The Reserve Forces Act of 1955 had established a draft deferral system for young men, but the Berlin Crisis, the Cuban situation and the increasing role of the United States in Vietnam spurred Congress to pass a law commonly known as REP68. One provision of this law encouraged young men to enlist in the Reserves to meet their service obligation. The Army also was pushing enlistment under the buddy system, making it most advantageous for friends to enlist in the same unit together. Strength grew significantly. The Army also began to equip the battalion more adequately. After the initial Annual Training?s at Ft. Belvoir and Ft. Devens, the battalion spent their AT?s for the rest of the decade at Camp Drum.
Units were redesignated and relocated as well. In 1963, Company D was redesignated as Company A and the 785th Engineer Company (Engineer Maintenance) was redesignated as Company D (Equipment and Maintenance). 1968 saw the reassignment of the battalion form the XIII Corps to the 94th Army Reserve Command and the redesignation of Company D (E&M) to Company A (E&M). Company A became Company D, retaining its construction mission. Company C started the decade in West Lebanon, New Hampshire and them moved across the Connecticut River to White River Junction, Vermont (in two different locations there during the decade) and finally to its current location in Rutland, Vermont in December 1968.
In 1968, the Community Civil Action program was initiated. This allowed Reservists to get hands on training with the tools and equipment they would use in wartime missions while at the same time assisting local communities and non-profit organizations with construction projects that would not otherwise be built. The 368th immediately immersed itself fully in this program which has become the lifeblood of the battalion ever since. On 19 December 1969, Companies B, C and D were all awarded the Secretary of the Army Superior Unit Certificate for the training year 1968-1969. A Company was recognized by Major General Cronkhite, 94th ARCOM Commander, with the Superior Unit Award for the Maine-New Hampshire-Vermont area.
The Seventies were known as a period of high esprit de corps. Members of al units had a great deal of pride in the level of community service rendered by the battalion ? an effort that will never be forgotten in many areas of Northern New England. The battalion started the decade by performing its ninth and tenth consecutive Annual Training at Camp/Fort Drum, New York, but Company B began a trend in 1971 by remaining at home station for its AT and working on Hidden Valley Boy Scout Reservation; YMCA Camp Connistion in Grantham, New Hampshire; Camp Mi-Te-Na in Barnstead, New Hampshire; Camp Foss in Alton, New Hampshire; and Vamp Plymouth Boy Scout Reservation in Tyson, Vermont. For these efforts, the battalion received praise as from every major commander up the chain of command.
AT 1974 was rather unique. The battalion refined its ability to fulfill a wartime mission by loading all its equipment aboard a ship in Salem, Massachusetts harbor and shipping it to Fort Eustis, Virginia. There it was unloaded by a Port Engineering Detachment and was wating when the Battalion flew down to start their AT. In two weeks, the 368th basically rehabilitated the entire rail system on Fort Eustice, rebuilding railroad bridges, tide gates and miles of track. The post Commander was so pleased that he gace the battalion the middle weekend off and set aside the facilities of Fort Story ? right on the ocean at Virginia Beach ? for us for the whole weekend. The troops had a ball! The 368th got exceptionally valuable training and saved the US Government hundreds of thousands of dollars.
AT?s 1975 thru 1978 saw us back a Fort Drum where the battalion reopened the quarry, crushed thousands of cubic yards of rock and rebuilt tank trails, bridges, barracks and buildings throughout the post. We built such a reputation that Fort Drum begged for us to keep coming back ? a rather unusual happening in those days. The battalion closed out the decades AR?s at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod, again rebuilding numerous ranges, facilities and miles of tank trails as well as practicing Rapid Runaway Repair.
The battalion?s authorized strength had grown to 32 officers, 6 warrants and 791 enlisted by 1974 and the contributions being made by our growing number of female soldiers was most noticeable. Command and control of the battalion passed from the 167th Support Group to the 329th Engineer Group in 1972. The 468th Engineer Platoon (Firefighting) and the 412th Engineer Company (Pontoon Bridge) were assigned to the battalion for a time during the 70?s as well. HHC moved from Concord to Grenier Field in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1975 and B Company moved from Lanconia to Gilford, New Hampshire in 1978.
In 1976, an event occurred which demonstrated just how ?tight? the soldiers of the 368th are. Our A Company in Rochester was, without warning, notified it was redesignated as a unit in the 187th Infantry Brigade, a unit that had been having severe strength problems and desperately needed more members. Higher commands had decided to cure this problem by ?grabbing? Company A whose strength was way in excess of 100%. A Company was ordered to send its flag and equipment to Manchester, New Hampshire, but the troops were to remain in Rochester as Infantry. The company leadership, with the backing of the Battalion and the Group, fought for the right for our Engineer soldiers to make a choice as to whether to remain in Rochester as Infantry or move to Manchester with the Engineers. The entire Company (with the exception of two soldiers with compelling personal situations) chose to make the long additional drive to Manchester to remain with their company and their battalion. Their pride, spirit and sense of belonging were obvious.
On 30 June 1978, the battalion was redesignated from a Construction Battalion to a Combat Heavy. While the construction missions remained basically the same, we eventually lost the quarrying and much of the paving equipment from Company A and the direct combat engineering roles were more highly emphasized.
1 January 1975 saw LTC Thomas H. O?Connor, JR assume command of the 368th from LTC Harry Bryant and LTC Neil D. MacPherson assumed command from LTC O?Connor on 16 August, 1977.
The eighties began with AT 1980 at Camp Edwards and then AT 1981 at Fort Devens. AT 1987 was also at Fort Devens. All the rest were at Fort Drum. During the AT?s of 1982-1986, the battalion again enhanced its enviable reputation by completing the road around the far northern reaches of Fort Drum, otherwise known as FUSA (for First U. S. Army) Boulevard. This involved a great deal of drilling, blasting and excavating of rock to eliminate previously impassable slopes and then the hauling and placing of that rock as fill for the road through beaver swamps and river crossings. Many bridges were built and large culverts installed. Projects even included a fair amount of pile driving and sheet pile retaining walls along the Black River. Also during this time, the 368th built a tactical airstrip for C-130?s at Fort Drum. Pits were opened, the quarry operated nearly around the clock and the scrapers, dump trucks and dozers did work around the clock. Again, the 368th had done so much, so well and in such a short, that Fort Drum would practically begged for us to be assigned there for out AT?s.
During AT 1985, the NCO?s of the battalion took over all of the officer positions throughout, including all Company and Battalion commands and conducted a 72-hour exercise expertly. This experience contributed greatly to an even higher level of cooperation and understanding among the battalion?s leadership.
Also during the eighties, the CAPSTONE program was instituted, whereby Reserve units established training relationships with the chain of command with which they would be associated in wartime. In the early eighties, we were associated with the 309th Engineer Group in Pennsylvania and performed in many training exercises at fort Pickett, Fort Knox and other locations with the 308th and its other subordinate units. One of the objects of the CAPSTONE program was that units were to get thoroughly familiar with the potential Wartime Theater of operations. Accordingly, in 1983, the battalion commander, S-3 and S-4 spent two weeks in central Italy putting together a ?country book? on the battalion?s assigned wartime area of operations. The route recons, construction resource listings and bridge and pipeline vulnerability analyses were so thorough that the CIA and DIA ?adopted? it into their data bases and said nothing like it had been done before. Once again, the 368th had enhanced its reputation for excellence and dependability and was held up as a model for others to follow.
Subsequently, the battalion?s CAPSTONE alignment changed, assigning us to the 925th Engineer Group, Montgomery, Alabama. Much of our training for this assignment was conducted at Fort Rucker, Alabama and in Germany. There are also memories of a certain ?convoy? of rental cars to Panama Beach, Florida one Saturday night ? a purely official ?recon?, to be sure! This alignment with the 928th continued until the cessation of the formal CAPSTONE program in 1992. The ?Yanks? and the ?Rebs? worked together exceptionally well and friendships were cemented which continue to this day.
A large contingent of our troops deployed to Honduras in 1988 to build roads linking the populated areas in the central part of the nation with the agricultural areas in the northwest. This was tough work in a hot, humid climate, but the 368th did excellent work and was commended for our expertise and success.
Battalion commanders during this decade included MAJ Thomas L. Sweeney, who took command on 16 August 1980, LTC Stanley Dzierzeski on 22 April 1981, LTC Robert H. Ropp on 1 January 1982, LTC Charles W. Thompson on 1 September 1985, LTC Jonathan F. Henry on 1 May 1987 and LTC Phillip L. Brown on 4 June 1989. he entire battalion assembled at Headquarters at Grenier Field in Manchester, New Hampshire on 12 July 1987 to celebrate its 40th Anniversary. Although the weather was hot, all enjoyed the occasion as many former soldiers and commanders of the battalion and companies were present and the 94th ARCOM Commander, MG John Ricottili, JR, recognized the battalion for its history of excellent service.
The nineties began with LTC Phillip L. Brown commanding a successful AT 1990 at Fort Drum. Then our former battalion commander, COL Robert Ropp, by then the 329th Engineer Group Commander, was activated for Desert Storm. LTC Brown took over command of the Engineer Group and MAJ Ronald J. Sevigny took over from him as Acting Battalion Commander in the spring of 1991. AT 1991 was done at Fort Devens and at Camp Pride in New Durham, New Hampshire, in the Corps of Engineers Flood Control Reservation in Hill, New Hampshire and at a recreation area in Nashua, New Hampshire under his command, along with the difficult task of assisting with the inactivation of our sister battalion, the 483rd Engineers. This was especially difficult for the 368th because we, too, were on the Quicksilver list and were next in line to be inactivated.
On 3 November 1991, LTC Woodbury P. Fogg took command of the 368th Engineer Battalion and we began to fight for our survival. Involvement in Community Action training projects was greatly increased and exceptionally challenging AT 1992 was conducted under tactical conditions throughout New England and at Gagetown Canadian Forces Base in New Brunswick. We also assisted the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the New Hampshire Office of Emergency Management and the Town of Stratham, New Hampshire in disaster recovery operations after a cyclone spawned by Hurricane Bob.
During AT 1991, the units were located at places like Gunstock Recreation Area and Hidden Valley Scout Reservation in New Hampshire, Rutland Airport in Vermont and at Camp Edwards and Fort Devens in Massachusetts ? all of which were big enough and isolated enough to allow the units to perform their construction missions under tactical conditions, with OPFOR (Opposing force) activity going on at ahy time, 24 hours per day.
The battalion completed a 4,000 foot runway and a complete headquarters building for the Vermont Civil Air Patrol at Rutland; a totally new concrete, steel and timber bridge, several miles of road, septic systems; latrines and buildings at Hidden Valley Scout Reservation; constructed ponds, parking lots, roads and a building and installed the night lighting system for the ski slopes at the County-owned Gunstock Recreation Area. It also completed numerous projects at Camp Edwards and at Fort Devens and provided Engineer support to the 187th Infantry Brigade and ARMY Forces Iceland at their training in Canada. Again, all this was done under tactical alert conditions for the entire AT.
The battalion?s performance during this AT was highly rated by the usually critical Active Army evaluators. This, together with much support from the communities we have been serving for decades, convinced the Department of Defense and Congress to take the battalion off the Quicksilver list and retain us in the force. Once again, the 368th Engineer Battalion had risen to a serious challenge and had succeeded in spite of tremendous odds.
AT 1993 started at Fort Devens with the infamous Echo Range automated electric range project and others, as well as intensive training for all in Nuclear, Biological and Chemical operations. In some of the hottest most humid weather of the year, out soldiers operated in their protective suits and practiced decontamination and exchange of protective gear. In spite of eat so bad the sweat literally ran out of the arms of the suits, our troups conduced their training with a thoroughness and professionalism ? and a spirit of teamwork- that was repeatedly cited by the evaluators, especially the Active Army ones. This training, together with the results achieved at AT 1992, dispelled any possible doubts as to the 368th?s ability to conduct both tactical and construction missions ? at the same time. The remainder of 1993 was spent doing Community Action projects throughout New England. The 287th Powerline Detachment also performed their AT in Korea doing much needed high voltage line construction for our forces in that country.
AT 1994 was probably the most notable ever. In the spring, most of the vertical construction troops deployed to Honduras where they were flown into remote sections of the nation by helicopter, lived with native Indians for two weeks and elped them build schools, clinics and sanitation facilities. This was a part of the country in which no US forces had previously operated and our troops were literally on their own out there. Their success was evident in the expressions of gratitude and friendship rendered by the native Hondurans. Everything for this operation ? transportation, design, materials, logistics and actual construction ? was planned and executed by the battalion with little help from any other organization. Southern Command ws greatly impressed and invited the battalion back to do more projects in subsequent years.
During this same time frame, many of our maintenance troops were in Guatemala supporting other Engineer operations for SouthCom.
The rest of the battalion loaded our heavy equipment on rail cars and C-5 aircraft and then flew to San Diego to meet it in June of 1994. We constructed several miles of 6 to 10 foot high steel plate barrier fence and a pioneer road alongside it just two feet North of the Mexican border in San Ysidro (across from Tijuana) and at Tecate and Campo (both approximately 40 miles East of San Diego in the high desert of California). This was far more production than the US Border Patrol and Joint Task Force Six had expected ?even in their wildest dreams? and far surpassed in both quantity and quality that of any other forces ? civilian or military, Active or Reserve ? that had worked on similar projects. Our troops bivouacked on private ranches, subsisted on the local economy, bought the construction materials locally and rented specialty construction equipment as needed in the area. As with the Central American Operations, almost all of the arrangements were made by the battalion itself.
In addition to all of thei, the 468th Firefighters went to Fort Rucker, Alabama to train with the Army Aviation School in air crash rescue and firefighting. This was extremely realistic and challenging work, yet the faculty at the Aviation School said our people were the best they had ever worked with ? because of their spirit and pride and thoroughness. The 287th Power Line Detachment went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma to do a long desired high voltage transmission line project. They, too, were highly commended by the post commander himself for their professionalism and effectiveness.
To use the words of some very senior Army officials, AT 1994 truly showcased the 368th Engineer Battalion?s outstanding capabilities. It proved we could independently and self-sufficiently plan and execute difficult missions anywhere in the world. It also showed that we were a real asset to the taxpayers and to our nation ? not just in the traditional wartime roles, but in the area of Operations Other Than War as well. We had justified DOD?s and Congress? faith in us by retaining us in the force. As a result, the 368th was moved into the very select pool of units designated for rapid deployment anywhere in the world.
LTC Ronald Sevigny again took command of the 368th from LTC Fogg in July of 1994. AT 1995 was primarily conducted at Ft. Devens doing LANES training mostly on real construction projects. A sizable contingent of our troops accepted SouthCom?s previous invitation and went to Fort Clayton in Panama for Engineer projects ? mostly vertical construction.
T he Battalion responded quickly and flexibly to a call for help in clearing debris, opening roads and stabilizating erosion after a catastrophic dam breach and flood in Alton, New Hampshire in the Spring of 1996. The battalion response was well publicized and was established as a model for other Reserve units to follow in assisting with disaster response.
AT 1996 was also highly notable and unique. Nearly the entire battalion deployed to Kenya, Africa to work with the Kenyan Army to build an Infantry Squad Battle Course. The Battalion also built tow dormitories for the Isolo School for Girls. There, as in Central America, the battalion served as ambassadors of good will for the United States and the songs, gifts and expressions of gratitude by the Kenyans reflected the respect we had earned. Our troops were visited there and highly commended by the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve affairs.
In May of 1997 MAJ Gordon J. MacKenzie Jr. Took over as acting commander and served until September 1997. During that period the battalion conducted annual training at Devens, MA. During that period, LANES training was performed in an outstanding manner. The 287th was at Fort Belvoir, VA bringing electric power to a boat pier and the 486th conducted a JRTC exercise at Fort Polk, LA.
In September of 1997, LTC Jamey Y. Chilton assumed command of the battalion. In October we were transferred from the command and control of the 167th Support Group to the 94th Headquarters Brigade. The main training focus of 1998 was the preparation for and the conduct of an annual training in Gagetown Canada. Prior to the start of this exercise in August, several recons were made and heavy equipment was convoyed early. The actual annual training combined USAR units to include the 401 Engr Co (DT), Canadian units and members of the New Hampshire National Guard. The convoys between 368th Reserve Centers and Gagetown covered a distance of at least 450 miles one way. Only one major breakdown occurred in the almost 10,000 miles covered during the exercise.
In addition to this annual training, the 468th Engr Plt (FF) was activated to participate in Operation Joint Endeavor. Twenty-six soldiers were mobilized and deployed. The battalion headquarters participated in many premobilization events prior to their departure. The 287th conducted their annual training at Douglas, AZ for JTF-6 and the U. S. Border Patrol.
Almost immediately upon our return from Gagetown, HSC continued its planning to relocate from the Manchester Army Reserve Center to a new 18 million dollar Armed Forces Reserve Center located in Londonderry, NH. It was about the same time we said farewell to the 401th Engr Co (DT) as they were transferred to the 167th Support Group. During the month of November, HSC performed 4 MUTAs to accomplish this relocation. Simultaneously we also were planning our annual training for 1999. This AT would bring the battalion, minus Company C in Rutland. VT, to Southwest Texas to work for the JTF-6 and the U. S. Customs Service. Company C would perform their annual training at Devens RFTA, MA. Also this year on 17 April, our higher headquarters converted to the 655 Area Support Group under the command of COL Denis Petcovic, the first AGR commander in our history.
The nineties also saw the relocation of Company B?s flag and equipment to Attleboro, MA, where we welcomed our brothers and sisters who chose to join us from the 483rd Engineer Battalion when it was inactivated in 1991. Then B Company moved to Attleboro, the soldiers from Gilford merged with D Company in Concord. In 1992, as the 329th Engineer Group was inactivated, the battalion reverted to the control of the 167th Support Group and gained the 468th Firefighters and the 287th Power Line Detachment. In 1995, the battalion was reorganized to the L series TO&E and A Company merged with HHC to form Headquarters and Service Company, remaining at Manchester. D Company moved to Rochester, NH (back where A Company had been back in 1976) and was redesignated as A Company. Just recently, the battalion was transferred from the 167th Support Group to the 94th Regional Support Group and gained the newly organized 401th Dump Truck Company in Dexter, Maine. The 368th Engineer Battalion (heavy) is now the largest single Engineer Combat Battalion in the Army.
The 368th Engineer Battalion is a close knit unit with a hard-won reputation as one of the best, most ?ready? Combat Engineer construction battalions in the Army. We are proud of our history and heritage and look forward to serving with equal distinction for the next fifty years.
May 19 2000 11:28:05:000AM