White Sands Missile Range and New Mexico will soon lose their only active duty Army unit when the 2nd Engineer Battalion begins to reorganize this summer.
The reassignment is part of an Army Core Structure Change that went into effect in October of last year. The different companies in the battalion are scheduled to be reorganized within other units on different installations. The Battalion Headquarters, Headquarters Company, and Forward Support Company will be reassigned to Fort Bliss, Texas and the 1st Armored Division. When this move takes place the 2nd Engineer Battalion will be reorganized under the title of the 2nd Brigade Engineer Battalion (BEB). With this new title, the battalion will take on new roles with more specialized troops joining the ranks.
“We’ll still maintain our lineage and our history that we’ve had since the 1800s,” said Battalion Commander Lt. Col. James Koeppen.
The first company scheduled to leave will be the 595 Sapper Co. The company, made up of roughly 100 Soldiers, will move to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. After the departure of the 595th the battalion will begin laying the ground work to facilitate the same process with the 573rd Clearance Co. who will move to Fort Polk, La early in the summer of 2015. Finally, the 40th Mobility Augmentation Co. (MAC) will inactivate and the Soldiers will be distributed across the Army. Many of the Soldiers from the 40th MAC will rejoin the battalion at Fort Bliss, but will fall in under other engineer companies.
In June 2013, the Army announced that it would undergo structural changes. A plan was set in place to reduce the number of Soldiers by over 100,000 and in doing so, the Army will be eliminating 10 active duty brigade combat teams (BCTs). However, as these BCTs reduce in number, the number of combat engineers is increasing within each BCT. At end state, each BCT will have one Brigade Engineer Battalion (BEB) that will bring increase to the number of engineers in the BCT from approximately 120 engineers Soldiers to about 200. The battalion’s role in the reorganization is part of the major restructure phase that calls for an Engineer Battalion to fall under a maneuver brigade.
“There used to be an Engineer Battalion for every brigade combat team,” Koeppen said. “Without that organic Engineer Battalion it really hampered maneuver commander’s engineer capability and ability to command and control engineer units.”
Koeppen said it would be easier to move the current battalion than to create an engineer battalion elsewhere. Throughout the entire Army reorganization, Koeppen believes his battalion will be the only one that will have to relocate from one installation to another. The battalion first arrived at WSMR in 2008. Koeppen has been in command of the battalion since June of last year and said he has enjoyed his time at WSMR thus far.
“Being a Soldier in White Sands is an awesome experience…we don’t have to compete for a lot of resources,” Koeppen said. “I like the small town atmosphere that the community provides.”
Once the 2nd Engineer Battalion is established at Fort Bliss, it will inherit a number of different companies to include signal and intelligence companies. The reorganization of these units allows for commanders such as Koeppen more flexibility and skills at his disposal to combat an ever changing threat around the world.