Photo by Spc. Kelly
from the 1457th emplace a triple standard obstacle
on the outskirts of Baghdad International Airport.
An e-mail fictionalizing the1457th Engineer
Battalion's deployment to Iraq has been circulating across
the nation in recent months. While embellishments are
endemic to war stories, the e-mail-in-question far exceeds
the limits of acceptable exaggeration. Its content is
primarily fantasy. It tells an astonishing story about
combat engineers who single-handedly won the war in Iraq,
captured Saddam Hussein, and taught the Army how to pray.
Although seemingly harmless, the widely disseminated story
undermines the genuine accomplishments of the Soldiers who
honorably but humbly fought to preserve our freedom and
The e-mail originated in Utah, but traveled fast across the
country popping up as far east as New York, and perhaps
beyond. Since its first appearance in the spring of this
year, thousands of unsuspecting internet-users may have read
its erroneous content.
The leadership of the 1457th has diligently
worked to diffuse distribution of the e-mail and set the
record straight, but it continues to flourish via the
internet. This article officially refutes a tale spun out
of control and clarifies the experiences of a unit that
needs no overstatement.
The e-mail contains a few scant facts. The 1457th
is part of the Utah National Guard. The Soldiers are indeed
"combat" engineers with a distinguished heritage. They
verifiably deployed to Iraq for a year and returned home in
May 2004. And every single 1457th Soldier came
home in one piece. Beyond this, truth and the e-mail part
Photo by Spc. Kelly
Soldier from the 1457th rests his head as he returns
from working on missions in the Baghdad area.
The narrative below juxtaposes erroneous excerpts from the
e-mail with the real story of the 1457th Engineer
Battalion and their experiences in Iraq.
Myth 1: "Engineers are sometimes called 'sacrifice troops'
since they must engage the Army with only small arms, ahead
of the main battle force."
Truth: Combat engineers are called "Sappers," a nickname
they earned in medieval Europe for destroying rival
fortifications. In modern-day battle, they fight alongside
the infantry and armor, going forward to clear any obstacles
blocking the way. When they go, they are well-armed and
well-protected by their fellow combat arms Soldiers.
can reasonably be called the first cousins of the infantry.
Myth 2: The 1457th engaged the enemy every step
of the way from Kuwait to the Liberation of Baghdad.
Truth: The battalion traveled to Baghdad in late May; three
weeks after Pres. Bush declared that major combat operations
Myth 3: "Nobody ever heard of the 1457th because they didn't
fight as a unit. Once deployed, they were divided up among
other units. They became 3rd Marines, 7th Marines, Rangers,
Special Forces, 101st Airborne, Big Red One, and others."
Photo Courtesy of
Utah National Guard
Col. Jefferson Burton is the Battalion Commander of
the 1457th Engineers.
Truth: The 1457th deployed to Iraq together as a
complete battalion. They were assigned to the 1st
Armor Division, the infamous Old Ironsides, and operated
nearly exclusively in the Baghdad region. The Baghdad
International Airport served as their base camp. The unit
slept and ate together as a battalion but typically
performed missions as platoons.
A few times, individuals with specialized skills, such as
electricians, engineers, or construction planners, were
selected for missions away from the unit. Capt. Mike Turley
flew with a team of such specialists to Baghdad ahead of the
battalion to set-up the 1st Armor Division
headquarters. Capt. Mel Anderson and
Sgt. Scott Neil worked separately
from the unit to manage the construction of the Iraqi Civil
Defense Corps facilities. No matter what the assignment,
though, the 1457th worked for the 1st
Armor Division for all their time in Iraq. The only place
they joined the Marines was
in the chow hall.
Myth 4: It was not a coincidence that a Utah boy found
Truth: The Utahns involved in Saddam's take-down were not
from the 1457th. However, the battalions'
missions were of equal importance.
Some were high-profile such as rescue operations at U.N.
building bomb site. Others were routine, like constructing
building security barriers, but no less essential to the
lives those barriers saved.
Photo by Spc. Kelly
1457th Soldiers level Hesco Barriers that were
placed as fortifications in the Green Zone.
Their missions varied tremendously.
The 1457th traveled into
the heart of Baghdad and built security barriers for Iraqs
newly minted and oft-targeted police force. They cleared
and mapped a series of interconnected tunnels and bunker
complexes beneath the Baghdad Airport. They constructed a
rifle range so coalition forces could continue to train
while deployed. Typically, the battalion worked numerous
missions concurrently, responding to each with meticulous
planning and execution. It was not long before the 1457th
was dubbed the 911 battalion.
The 1st Armor Divisions Engineer Brigade
Commander, Col. Don Young supervised the battalion while
in Iraq and had first-hand knowledge of their
accomplishments. He formally recognized the battalions
meritorious performance in a memorandum to Maj. Gen. Brian
Tarbet, the Utah National Guard Adjutant General.
In the memo, he states, They quickly became my Go To
unit. I assigned my toughest high-visibility missions to
this battalion knowing that they would always succeed in a
timely and efficient manner. (A copy of the memo can be
obtained from the Utah National Guard Public Affairs
Myth 5: "A
big smile comes from the fact that on the first Sunday that
meetings were held in Saddam's palace, standing-room-only
meetings were held every hour on the hour, from 7:00 AM to
Many faiths are represented in the 1457th. In
the immediate battalion area, LDS group leaders held at two
services a day on Sundays. Protestant and Catholic services
were held nearby with neighboring units. Most services were
well-attended and lasted an hour or so.
1457th Soldiers only went inside Saddam's Palaces
1457th Commander, Lt. Col. Jeff Burton, is
especially frustrated by the content and tenaciousness of
the referenced e-mail, but he believes he understands the
motivation behind its enduring popularity.
Photo by Spc. Kelly
soldier of the 1457th pulling guard duty.
"People want to believe in heroes," said Burton. "They pine
for good news. And they are anesthetized by Hollywood about
the true, more humble nature of heroism. The e-mail tells a
story they want to hear. So they forward it along without
reflecting on how it takes away from the actual performance
of 1457th during their year in Iraq."
The Soldiers of the 1457th did a remarkable job
in Iraq, just like thousands of other units fighting in the
war on terror, Burton continued. Our service was not
particularly unique, but it was honest and dedicated. Our
reputation with those that know us is a positive one. We
gave our best to every mission. Sadly, the lies and
sanctimony expressed in the fictional e-mail cheapens the
dedicated service of honest service members everywhere.
Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Soldiers from the 1457th
or elsewhere dont need a fictional exaggeration to
validate their service. They raised their right-hand to
serve our country and protect our ideals. At the end of
day, that is enough. They are all our heroes.
Photo by Utah
Members of the 1457th conducted M.O.U.T training
exercises in Ft. Lewis, Washington while preparing