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USACE and the Army Engineer Regiment

Setting the theater

The civil and military sides of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) are bound together by common missions, organization, and spirit. USACE’s motto, Essayons – French for “Let us try” – applies equally to a combat engineer erecting a perimeter around a forward firebase or a civil works engineer dredging sections of the Upper Mississippi River to alleviate drought. In either case, engineers are “setting the theater” whether preparing for combat or emergency response.

The Army Engineer Regiment is a large and inclusive entity, Brig. Gen. Peter “Duke” DeLuca pointed out. DeLuca is commandant of the U.S. Army Engineer School (USAES) based at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

“This is a regiment that includes more than 80,000 total engineer Soldiers in the active Army, the Army Reserve, and the National Guard. It includes representatives of the more than 30,000 civilians in the Army Corps of Engineers and other members of the Army institutional staffs, as well as representatives of our joint service engineer counterparts. The regiment also enfolds many foreign military engineer delegations and representatives from our U.S. government interagency partners and even representatives of industry with whom we partner in the war zones and at home.”

Among USACE’s 30,000-plus personnel are 550 U.S. Army members spread throughout USACE districts and divisions nationwide and around the globe at various military installations. In addition, one Army battalion reports directly to USACE and the chief of engineers.

“The prime power battalion [the 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power)] is the only uniformed unit that falls under the Corps of Engineers directly,” DeLuca explained. “There are prime power specialists embedded in units throughout the Army as well.”

The relationship between USACE and the uniformed side of the Engineer Regiment is defined by USACE’s support of combatant commands worldwide and by the training both uniformed and civilian USACE people receive at USAES. Though the school is primarily for uniformed engineers, the training they receive facilitates work with USACE civilians and frequently future roles within USACE itself.

“Senior NCOs [noncommissioned officers] and officers will serve in roles in the field Army, but they’ll also transition to the Corps in certain leadership roles,” DeLuca said. “We have captains that have served in various units who will often transition to the Corps as project managers. Majors will do the same, sometimes becoming area engineers. We also have lieutenant colonel and colonel district commanders who come through the Engineer School before taking command.”

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Roy Stubbins, geospatial engineer course manager, instructs students Jan. 18, 2012, on aspects of geospatial engineering during the first week of the course at the U.S. Army Engineer School, based at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. U.S. Army photo by Melissa K. Buckley

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Roy Stubbins, geospatial engineer course manager, instructs students Jan. 18, 2012, on aspects of geospatial engineering during the first week of the course at the U.S. Army Engineer School, based at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. U.S. Army photo by Melissa K. Buckley

Each commander headed for a USACE district receives training in USAES’ pre-command course and further instruction three months after taking command. Though these district commanders are experienced officers, each is apprised of developments, activities, and changes in the field. Likewise, USAES’ commandant makes an effort to stay abreast of the engineer art and news from the operational quarters in which it is being practiced.

“I stay in contact with the deployed engineers, both Corps leaders and tactical unit leaders,” he added. “I communicate with them via secure communications so we’re aware of how they’re nesting or working through issues associated with the mission. I share the situation report that I send to my superiors in the Army training and education arm with the senior leaders of the Corps of Engineers. They share theirs as well. I’m receiving the chief of engineers’ comments to his own people and situation reports to the chief of staff of the Army. The senior leadership has a single operational picture. Frequently we require the chief of engineers or the deputy chief to represent the regiment in meetings at the Pentagon that I’m not invited to.”

Fort Leonard Wood also trains geospatial cadres for the Army and maintains a tight relationship with the Army Geospatial Center, which is a major subordinate command under USACE. Geospatial specialists interact with the Army staff and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. Uniformed field specialists produce digital data from terrain analyses so that the Army can target and mission plan. The geospatial specialists, uniformed and civilian, also support emergency management, which is executed by USACE.

DeLuca routinely interacts with USACE’s division commanders nationally and works to tie local USACE district professional development and training activities to various evolutions at his post.

“We have an arrangement here at Fort Leonard Wood, for example, where the [USACE] Emerging Leader Program from the Kansas City District sends people here and they spend a couple days seeing what uniformed engineers do, what their missions are, how they’re trained. The Corps’ civilian engineers then have a much better understanding when they’re embedded with a unit in a war zone or forward-deployed area of how to provide support.

“There are exchanges like that around the country. As a brigade and battalion commander, I would rotate my junior officers out to the districts to experience a part of the Army Engineer Regiment that they didn’t normally get to see until they were captains or, more often, at the major or lieutenant colonel level. The sharing of information is higher than I’ve ever seen it.”

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Eric Tegler is a writer/broadcaster from Severna Park, Md. His work appears in a variety...