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249th Engineer Battalion History

Current Mission

The mission of the 249th Engineer Battalion Prime Power is to: On order, deploy worldwide to provide prime electrical power and electrical systems expertise in support of military operations and the National Response Framework. The 249th EN BN reports directly to HQ, USACE.  This facilitates the Emergency Support Function #3 mission under the Stafford Act and provides flexibility in support to customers worldwide. The battalion’s National Response Framework mission is to: O/O, the 249th EN BN deploys to provide electrical expertise, conduct Pre-Installation inspections, and manage, configure, and install generators in support of Emergency Support Function #3 of the National Response Framework.

In the course of its mission the battalion offers a variety of services including: electrical power requirement assessment, power production; transformer inspection and test analysis; maintenance and repair of power plants, substations, and government owned or managed transmission and distribution systems, circuit breaker and relay maintenance; infrared surveys, medium-voltage electrical contractor oversight, and training for personnel to operate and maintain prime power distribution and generation equipment.

In support of the USACE FEMA National Response Framework mission the battalion acts through Task Force Temporary Emergency Power which provides mission coordination between all Power Missions being executed in support of the Nation under the National Response Framework.  In the event of an ‘all hands’ NRF event the commander of the 249th Engineer Battalion serves as the commander of Task Force Temporary Emergency Power. Task Force Temporary Emergency Power recommends power resource allocations, forecast future requirements, and provide temporary emergency power reports while accomplishing the following key tasks:

  • Coordinate and integrate USACE Emergency Power resources between affected Divisions, Districts, or Regions; Develop sourcing solutions and champion re-allocation recommendations.

  • Conduct future operational planning to enhance and focus mission execution and determine emerging requirements affecting resource allocation and asset management.

  • Provide timely and accurate reporting of progress of power missions and key requirements.

  • Manage input and processing of National Missions/Political Injects; facilitate specialized reporting requirements.

 World War II – As a Combat Engineer Battalion

The 249th Engineer Combat Battalion was originally constituted in 25 February 1943 and activated 5 May 1943 at Camp Bowie, Texas initially under the command of only three captains.  The other officers supplied to the unit were second lieutenants from the 1943 class of West Point.  Shortly after, the battalion participated in two maneuvers in Louisiana, known as the "Louisiana Maneuvers"; there the battalion and its soldiers learned valuable lessons for war.  The Battalion was deployed to Europe where it engaged in four major World War II campaigns and was cited in the Belgian Army Order of the Day for action in the Ardennes in Alsace, France. Following the war, the unit completed a short tour of occupation duty and then returned to Camp Patrick Henry, VA, where it was inactivated on 27 November 1945.The 249th sailed from the United States to England in May 1944, after equipping and preparing for combat, the Unit landed on Utah Beach in August 1944 under the 1137th Engineer Combat Group commanded by Colonel George A. Morris. In October through November 1944, the soldiers were specially trained on using the Bailey bridge in Trier, France.

Later that year on 18 December 1944, the Black Lions were ordered to move from the Saar River, where the unit was building a bridge to the Ardennes, commonly called the Battle of the Bulge. Upon arriving to the front, the 249th was assigned to the 26th Infantry Division, already engaged and in defensive positions along the southeast corner of the Bulge. The battalion was used in an effort to block the German advance by deploying landmines, obstacles and establishing roadblocks.

Fighting in Arsdorf was brought to an end with a tank destroyer ending the two days of fighting between the engineers and German defenders of the town.

On 24 December 1944, Brigadier General Harlan Harkness, the assistant division commander, ordered the battalion to advance and secure the towns of Arsdorf and Bigonville to the north of the 26th Infantry Division, near the area of operations of the 4th Armored Division, in order to relieve the occupied towns so the division could advance and attack the enemy line. Companies A and C were ordered into the town of Arsdorf where the battalion was engaged in fierce combat for two days. It was later learned that the town had never been secured by the 4th Armored Division.

In February 1945, the battalion was selected for the special task of crossing the Rhine River. On 19 March 1945, the unit was assigned to the engineer task force charged with crossing the Rhine at Oppenheim. The main thrust of the effort was to use assault boats to get troops from 5th Infantry Division across and later to construct a more stable pontoon bridge. The battalion met little resistance across the river and quickly began constructing the bridge. After an accident resulting in a raft being sunk, the Battalion moved downriver to Mainz. After this bridge site was secure, the 249th was detached from the 1137th Engineer Group and was given the mission to secure and maintain the bridges on the Rhine River. In May 1945, when the war ended in Europe, the battalion was moved to Plattling, Germany where they built a camp for displaced refugees. In November 1945, the 249th Engineers were sent on their final orders to Camp Lucky Strike, near Marseilles, France and then redeployed back to the United States. The division was inactivated at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia on 27 November 1945.

Post World War II

On 23 March 1948, the Battalion was re-designated as the 442d Engineer Battalion and assigned to the Active Reserve Corps under Fifth Army. The Battalion was activated with Headquarters at Ames, Iowa and affiliated with the Iowa State Highway Commission in 1948-49. It again was inactivated in May 1950 at Ames and Council Bluffs, Iowa and returned to reserve status.

On 25 June 1952, the 442d Battalion was re-designated as the 249th Engineer Construction Battalion, and on 9 December 1954 was withdrawn from the Reserves and allocated to the Regular Army. The battalions was reactivated on 9 February 1955 and sent to Kleber Kaserne, Kaiserslautern, West Germany. Then the battalion was stationed at Gerszewski Barracks, Knielingen, Karlsruhe, Germany, under the command of the 18th Engineer Brigade, where it provided construction support to USAREUR elements stationed in Germany for the Cold War.

In March 1960, the Battalion deployed to France, fragmented and performed airfield missions. It returned to Karlsruhe, West Germany in 1965.

On 30 June 1975, the Battalion was re-designated as the 249th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy).

On 8 December 1990, the 249th deployed to Southwest Asia to participate in Operation Desert Shield and later Operation Desert Storm. For its actions there, the unit was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation. On 29 April 1991, the unit returned to Germany and was inactivated on 15 October 1991.

On 16 November 1994, at Fort Belvoir, VA, the 249th was again activated as the 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power).

Becoming Prime Power: Transitions - Detachments, Companies, The US Army Prime Power School, and the 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power)

The 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power) was originally comprised of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Companies A, B, and C. Company C evolved from the U.S. Army Engineer Reactor Group started in 1958 at Fort Belvoir, Va. The mission of the reactor group was to prepare military personnel to operate, maintain, and manage the Army’s nuclear and fossil-fueled power plants. The course was modified in 1977 to the current Prime Power Production Specialist Course.

Company A was established in July 1991, by converting four, widely dispersed U.S. Army Facilities Engineering Support Agency TDA Prime Power Detachments into TOE platoons. Currently, Company A’s headquarters is located at Schofield Barracks, HI

Company B was first activated and constituted in June 1944 in London, England at the 2892nd Engineer Technical Team. The unit participated in four World War II campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, and Ardennes-Alsace. The 2892nd was deactivated on 30 April 1947 in Germany. The 2892nd was re-designated the 535th Engineer Detachment in the early 1950s. The unit spearheaded the United States Army Nuclear Power Program by operating and maintaining the nuclear Power Barge STURGIS, along with numerous other fossil-fueled power barges and non-tactical generator power plants. Company B’s headquarters is presently located at Fort Bragg, NC.

The Battalion is unique in that it is blended with Soldiers serving in the Active Army and in the U.S. Army Reserves.  Company D, located in Cranston, RI, is the Battalion’s all-Reserve company.  The company is home to all of the Army’s military occupation specialty (MOS) 12Q, Power Distribution Specialist (Lineman).  The company also has one platoon of MOS 12P Prime Power Specialists.

Prime Power participated in operations:  Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Noble Eagle, New York City and Pentagon Terrorist Attacks, Just Cause, Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Provide Comfort, Provide Hope, Uphold Democracy, Support Hope, Joint Endeavor and Joint Guard, Inherent Resolve, Spartan Shield, and Freedom Sentinel as well as numerous disaster relief missions as part of the National Response Framework (under which USACE is assigned as the primary agency for Emergency Support Function #3, public works and engineering). The battalion also provides enduring support to Missile Defense Agency (MDA) / U.S. Army Space Missile Defense Command (SMDC) Forward Base Mode (FBM) Mission through operation and maintain power generation in support of global ballistic missile defense operations and support to MDA Test Flights testing the Tactical High Altitude Air Defense System (THAADS) Radar under field conditions before commissioning

9/11 and the Global War on Terrorism (2001)

Immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001, elements of the 249th were deployed to New York City and were instrumental in restoring power to Wall Street enabling the financial district to resume operations within a week of the attack.

BG Silva recognized four 2/A/249th Soldiers for their efforts supporting surge operations during an awards ceremony.

Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2007)

The 249th worked aggressively to connect to the existing grid the major power users, the critical facilities, and the facilities that did not require an extensive bill of materials. The 249th conducted battle damage assessments and repaired enormous portions of the distribution systems that had been cannibalized, destroyed, or severely damaged to enable operations. They laid miles of power distribution lines in the ground and stood up life-support areas all over Iraq.

Under the 130th Engineer Brigade as Theater EN Cell, the 249th Engineer Battalion was charged with maintaining the power grid throughout Iraq.  They were required to assess 200 power stations throughout the country and make repairs to each one individually. The battalion supported 130th EN BDE efforts to provide constant power to 25 contingency operating bases (COBs) and forward operating bases (FOBs) and reduced safety hazards. Soldiers from the battalion worked closely with the area support group’s electrical team to repair and maintain the power distribution system and supervise the operation of the base-leased power plant. The team also repaired cable strikes, conducted substation maintenance and repair, and corrected faults in the underground distribution infrastructure—which was built in the early 1980s.

Working alongside the MNC–I C-7 (engineer staff section) Power Cell, they produced a theater power plan to meet future power demands and assist in the programming of funds for upcoming power production requirements. The Soldiers of the 249th supported base commanders and area support groups in their efforts to maximize the use of the government-purchased and leased power generation systems, implement load-sharing programs during peak power demands, and ensure the safe and efficient operation of the utilities infrastructures sustaining allied forces. Prime power specialists conducted electrical assessments of facilities, compiling required bills of materials, computing load estimates and projected power requirements, as well as designing and installing low- and medium-voltage power distribution systems for base engineers. They took on the critical tasks of overseeing project execution, ensuring the quality control of the contractors’ work, and providing technical assistance to both theater and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Contract Oversight Representatives.

The 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power) provided oversight on all coalition operating base power projects in Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom).

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005)

The 249th deployed teams to the Gulf Region under Joint Task Force Katrina, working with contractors, and local and state entities to assess, they helped install and maintain emergency generators at critical facilities.[7] By 5 September 2005, the 17th Street Canal breach was closed. Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters had dropped over 200 sand bags, with approximately 125 sandbags breaking the surface of the water. After the emergency was over, plans called for the canal to be drained and the wall repaired.

There were three 42" mobile pumps staged and two 42" and two 30" pumps were placed at the sheet pile closure. Sewer & water board, electric utility and the 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power) were completing pump house inspection. When the pumps began operation, a 40-foot-wide opening was made in the sheet piling to allow water to flow out of the canal.

The Battalion was instrumental in restoring power to the pumps in New Orleans for dewatering operations.  The Battalion also assisted in Mississippi and Texas to restore power to the affected areas.

The 249th is a four time Itschner Award winner with D Company in 1982, C Company in 1983, B Company in 1984, and B Company once again in 1986. Additionally, the 249th Engineer Battalion has produced three Sturgis Award winners.