Charlie Company of 1457th  Receives Itschner Award

Written by Spc. Kelly K. Collett

Published May 18, 2004 

   

Charlie Company 3rd Platoon works to stabilize the 14th of July Bridge in Baghdad Iraq.
U.S. Army Photo

Charlie Company 3rd Platoon works to stabilize the 14th of July Bridge in Baghdad Iraq.

Charlie Company of the 1457th   Engineer Battalion was awarded the prestigious Itschner award for being the best National Guard Engineering company nationwide. They are led under the command of Capt. Gibb and 1st Sgt. Dimond.

     The Itschner Award, which is actually a plaque, is given in honor of Lt. Gen. Emerson C. Itschner.  There are three of them awarded each year.  One is given to an Active Army Engineer Company, Reserve Company, and National Guard Company. The award is presented to the most outstanding company during the year.  The Itschner Plaque first came about in the year 1960, but it wasn’t until 1974 that the award was offered to Reserve and National Guard components.

 

Sign located in front of Charlie Company's tents pitched in Baghdad, Iraq.
U.S. Army Photo

Sign located in front of Charlie Company's tents pitched in Baghdad, Iraq.

The men from Charlie Company come from all over the state of Utah, as well as from states as far away as Georgia and Virginia.  Sgt. Versace commutes to drill from out-of-state.  “It came as a surprise!” he said upon learning they had received such a high honor.  He wasn’t sure why they had been picked out of the other companies in the 1457th Battalion, which he also thought worked extremely hard. He also said that his platoon had done an amazing job at maintaining a high standard of physical excellence which reflected on their APFT scores.  Over half of his platoon received the Physical fitness patch for outstanding physical performance on their Army Physical Fitness Test.  He speaks of their accomplishments in a nostalgic tone and stops to say how he misses his guys, although they’ve only been separated two weeks since their arrival home.  These men of Charlie Company had spent over a year away from home and with each other.  They pulled together and did everything that was asked of them.  They completed many high priority missions faster than what was expected of them.  They never failed any mission given them.Lt. Col. Burton, commander of the 1457th Engineer Battalion, said that “Charlie Company just did some incredible things through the course of the year.  Some of the missions they performed actually received national and world media attention. Charlie Company was specifically recognized in the Washington Post and New York Times for some of the missions they performed like the Saddam Dig and the U.N. rescue.  

Capt. David Gibb (Commander of Charlie Company) 1st Sgt. Derek Dimond of Charlie Company.
U.S. Army Photo

Capt. David Gibb (Commander of Charlie Company) 1st Sgt. Derek Dimond of Charlie Company.
 

Charlie Company 3rd Platoon pauses for a group picture, taken of the 14th of July Bridge in Baghdad, Iraq.
U.S. Army Photo

Charlie Company 3rd Platoon pauses for a group picture, taken of the 14th of July Bridge in Baghdad, Iraq.

 “Those kinds of things really helped to solidify the award for them.  It was more than just those two events; it was just a kind of sustained high tempo over the last year.  The 14th of July Bridge was huge as well.  It got international attention.  The high visibility and the attention that was drawn to Charlie Company because of what they did really pushed them over the edge.  If everything was equal, that would have been enough to win the award for Charlie Company.”  Burton explained.

          Lt. Col. Burton also commended all 1457th troops saying “We just have great soldiers and great leaders. They did just a superb job. That’s why the active component was so stunned.  They haven’t had a lot of exposure to the guard, but I think what happened over there opened a lot of eyes.”

         The 1457th Engineer Battalion was dubbed the “9-1-1” Battalion by the 1st Armored Division Brigade Engineer Commander, Col. Lou Marich.  They where given this name because of the swiftness with which they responded to a call.  Charlie Company represented this title perfectly.  If there was a car bombing, Charlie Company started preparations immediately, while waiting for the word that their help would be needed.  They were always on hand and ready to respond to anything that came their way.  They responded to many attacks and were often the first engineers on the scene. They were there for the bombing of the United Nations building, and multiple police stations.  The Soldiers of Charlie Company were critical for cleaning up after the destruction and helping to search for survivors.

         Lt. Neville, a platoon leader, said in order to be recognized for the award they had to prepare a nomination packet.  It had to be submitted between December 2003 and January 2004.  It was prepared by Captain Gibb, First Sergeant Dimond, Sergeant Whatcott and Lieutenant Neville. By the time it was completed, “The packet was about 50 pages long.”, said Lt. Jeremy Neville.  It was then submitted to the National Guard Bureau.  It consisted of every major event and mission that had been completed from training in Ft. Lewis Washington, to everything that had been done in Iraq.

         One of the reasons Lt. Neville believes they received the award was because their first mission had an unusually high priority.  It was the mission of excavating the area where in the beginning of the war, Saddam was believed to have been when a restaurant was bombed.  Charlie Company was in charge of the mission that ran for a little over a week and operated 24 hours a day.  Almost every major media turned out for the event. 

         Another mission that they were given was to rebuild the 14th of July Bridge.  The bridge had been damaged by machine gun fire and was a major route into the Green Zone.  “Sgt Caleb Johnson who works as an engineer in the civilian world, assessed the bridge and came up with a plan to repair it.” said Neville. The bridge took about three weeks to repair. 

        Lt. Neville also told of another experience where Charlie Company shined.  He said “There was intelligence that insurgents where going to use a car bomb to blow up the Russian Embassy in Baghdad. We were told about it about five hours before it was supposed to happen.  We were able to react quickly enough and get the huge barriers, such as Texas “T” barriers and the Jersey barriers and spent all night barricading the Russian Embassy before the attack happened.  Because of our efforts there was no attack.”  They were credited for their quick response and for keeping the bombing from taking place.

        Neville also said (speaking about his company) “For what they’ve done this past year has made such a great impact, that the U.S. Army, and the Engineer Corp. has recognized them.”  He also heard several soldiers say that “It was a neat impression that it was able to be accomplished.”

       At the end of April 2004, Capt. Gibb flew back to the United States to receive the award for his Company.  At the time they were presented this award they were also waiting for more news to find out if they were being extended for 120 more days.  Some of the men, after finding out about receiving the plaque, questioned hopefully if somehow the award would get them home sooner. 

        Charlie Company has now earned a place in history.  They have a story to tell, and it has been heard nationally, and they have been credited with the hard work they have done to keep our nation safe.  As Sgt. Versace quoted to me as we spoke, the words from George Orwell, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”  They have stood ready and have earned the right to now sleep peaceably…in their own beds.  

Congratulations on a job well Done Gentlemen.

Sgt. Nick Johnson and Sgt. Cody Adamson string a new cable to support the pre-existing cable that was damaged by machine gun fire.
U.S. Army Photo

Sgt. Nick Johnson and Sgt. Cody Adamson string a new cable to support the pre-existing cable that was damaged by machine gun fire.