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36th Engineer battalions serving in Iraq, Afghanistan

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Posted: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 12:00 pm | Updated: 9:20 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

Pfc. Alan Carroll was shot through the torso four times Nov. 5. He recovered in record time and deployed to Afghanistan in January with the 20th Engineer Brigade - just two months after leaving the hospital.

The 36th Engineer Brigade's commander, Col. Kent Savre, handed Pvt. Matthew Candaleria his business card last fall soon after Candaleria arrived at Fort Hood. The private joined the 62nd Engineer Battalion, which returned this summer to Fort Hood.

Four 20th Engineer soldiers - Spc. Frederick Greene, Pfc. Michael Pearson, Pfc. Aaron Nemelka and Pfc. Kham Xiong - died in the Nov. 5 shootings, and upon hearing the news, Candaleria sent Savre an e-mail, asking if he could take the place of one of the fallen.

"He said, 'Pick me. It's my turn,'" Savre said March 2. "And so I did pick Matthew Candaleria and he is making a difference right now in Afghanistan."

Savre talked about the brigade's soldiers and their "unbelievable stories of selfless service" during a colors-casing ceremony March 2 at Fort Hood's Phantom Warrior Center. The event was the final step in the brigade headquarters' preparation for Iraq.

The theater engineer brigade in Iraq

More than 100 soldiers from the brigade headquarters will spend the next year developing, planning and executing all engineering operations in Iraq. That mission includes road and bridge maintenance and removal, route clearance and the transfer of responsibility of those duties to Iraqi engineers.

It was "certainly be a dynamic year," Savre said.

Six other units across the Army and Air Force will fall under the 36th Engineer headquarters in Iraq. They are the 37th Engineer Battalion from Fort Bragg, N.C.; the 724th Engineer Battalion from the Wisconsin National Guard; 367th Engineer Battalion from the Minnesota Reserves; the 7th Engineer Battalion from Fort Drum, N.Y.; 70th Engineer Company from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; and the Air Force's 732nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron.

The 36th Engineer's headquarters returned from a tour to Afghanistan in June 2008. This is the brigade's second deployment to Iraq.

This deployment will be unlike any other on which the brigade has embarked. Despite that, little is different when it comes to preparing for a deployment, said Command Sgt. Maj. Terrence Murphy, the brigade's senior noncommissioned officer.

"You train just as you fight," he said. "We will look out for each other."

36th Engineers

across the world

A brigade would typically host a grand casing ceremony on a parade field filled with formations of soldiers.

"The reality is, as everyone here knows," Savre said, "our national leadership has placed renewed emphasis on the war in Afghanistan and with the decision to send more combat forces that direction also came the requirement for competent engineer support."

The brigade's 20th Engineer Battalion, White Sands Missile Range, N.M.-based 2nd Engineer Battalion and Fort Stewart, Ga.-based 92nd Engineer Battalion are serving in Afghanistan. The 8th and 62nd Engineer Battalions and the Fort Benning, Ga.-based 11th Engineer Battalion are on the road to replace them in 2011, Savre said.

"So although we won't have the opportunity to serve together in Iraq," he went on to say, "I am both confident and extremely proud to send these great soldiers to Afghanistan wearing the Rugged Brigade patch."

Murphy said March 2 that his soldiers were ready to start the mission, and despite having soldiers in three different countries, the units work well together.

Saying goodbye

Most of the 36th's soldiers departed Fort Hood three days after the brigade's colors were cased.

More than 100 soldiers - including Savre and Murphy - said goodbye to families and friends Friday during a deployment ceremony at Kieschnick Physical Fitness Center.

Among those deploying was Maj. Jordan Wayman, the brigade's logistics officer and a former enlisted mechanic. She was commissioned in 1995 after 10 years as an enlisted soldier.

She sat in Kieschnick's gym Friday with her parents, T.J. and Grace Stewart. The Stewarts moved in with their daughter in 2004.

This is Wayman's third deployment. The first was in 2004 to Iraq and the second from 2005 to 2006 with a military transition team in Afghanistan.

T.J. Stewart served two tours to Korea and two to Vietnam, retiring as a warrant officer in 1977. He, too, started his Army career as an enlisted soldier - an infantryman. He finished in the air defense artillery field.

Stewart is humble about his service, and didn't start to talk openly about it until he moved in with his daughter and lived in a military community, Wayman said.

"They surround the military here," she said of the Fort Hood area, adding later, "I love the community here."

Wayman is the primary caregiver for her 76-year-old father and 74-year-old mother, but she is confident in handing those duties over to members of her church during the deployment. Congregants at Trinity Baptist Church have surrounded the Stewarts, Wayman said.

Living in a supportive military community has been good for Wayman's father, she said.

Stewart often wears a Vietnam veteran ball cap and soldiers - most often noncommissioned officers - will walk up to him and ask about his service. Stewart tears up every time he shakes a soldier's hand, his daughter said.

Now that Stewart is more comfortable talking about his time in the Army, Wayman has heard stories about him she never knew.

Stewart's openness has also made it possible for him and his daughter to grow closer. They have shared experiences and can talk about things with a common understanding, Wayman said. She can tell him about being attacked while in a convoy in Afghanistan and relate to thoughts and feelings he had in Korea and Vietnam.

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