Kentucky engineers named best in Guard

By Stacy Floden, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

Sgt. Tyler Mattingly and Staff Sgt. Peter Santiamagro discuss construction plans with Lt. Gen. Daniel Hokanson (center) Vice Chief, National Guard Bureau and Capt. Brian Ladd (right) commander of the 207th during the unit’s deployment to the Middle East in 2017. The 207th is credited with the completion of 44 major projects and more than 100 work orders, valued at $10 million. (Courtesy photo)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — There’s a first time for everything and the saying has never rang more true for the 207th Engineer Company, as they were first time winners of the Itschner Award.

The Itschner Award goes to the most outstanding engineer unit in each component of the Army. Units are evaluated on mission planning and execution, professional development programs, retention, morale and welfare, safety programs, community relations, and their contribution to the image of the Corps of Engineers.

“As most Commanders do, I’ve told the unit countless times that they were the best and how proud of them I was,”  said Cpt. Brian Ladd, commander of the 207th. “Being recognized by the Engineer Regiment as the best engineer unit in the National Guard for 2017, affirms that I meant what I said, and wasn’t just being cliché or biased. This award is a testament to the quality of Soldiers we have, and the excellent leadership of our NCOs and officers.”

The 207th was deployed in 2017 to the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility to support the Over the Horizon engineer mission. While headquartered in Kuwait, the unit sent squad and platoon size elements to conduct engineer construction missions at 22 forward operating bases in seven different countries throughout the Middle East.

First Sgt. Terry Vaughn (left) and Capt. Brian Ladd accept the Itschner Award at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., April 20, 2018. The award is given annually to the most outstanding engineer unit in the Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve. (Courtesy Photo)

The company’s tremendous effort resulted in the completion of 44 major projects and over 100 work orders, valued at more than $10 million. The intensive planning by leadership and efficient execution by the 207th led to producing high quality products being completed ahead of schedule and with no serious injuries to Soldiers.

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“The 207th performed outstanding service during 2017 for the commonwealth and the nation. Their success while conducting a challenging mission in seven different countries throughout the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility is impressive,” said Maj, Gen. Stephen Hogan, adjutant general for Kentucky. “Their unbridled spirit in the service of the nation is a strong example for all of us to emulate.”

The Itschner Award, first awarded by Society of American Military Engineers in 1960, is named in honor of Lt. Gen. Emerson C. Itschner. In 1974, the competition for the Itschner Award was broadened to include the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. The award is given annually to outstanding Army engineering units.

“Winning required a relentless determination, day in and day out,” said Ladd. “Before the deployment, I told the unit during our departure ceremony, if you put forth your absolute best effort into every task you are assigned, there will be no obstacle we can’t overcome, and no limit to what we can achieve.

The Soldiers answered this call beyond what I could have imagined. We created a culture where striving for perfection was the standard, and we all worked together towards that goal.”

The unit conducted construction operations at 22 locations, across seven different countries, often relying on junior non commissioned officers and commissioned officers to lead their teams and accomplish their mission with minimal oversight from the company and higher echelons. The Itschner award is evidence of the high standards of leadership, training, and readiness the Guard and 207th upholds at home and overseas.

This award is not a first in Kentucky however. The 201st Engineer Battalion, 1123rd Sapper Company and 206th Engineer Battalion have also received the award.