RICHMOND, Va. –
The Virginia National Guard’s Virginia Beach-based 576th Engineer Utilities Detachment, 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group, received the 2022 Itschner Award as the most outstanding U.S. Army engineer company in the Army National Guard from the Society of American Military Engineers at the Joint Engineer Training Conference & Expo on May 4, 2023, in San Antonio, Texas.
Capt. Shane McNamara, commander of the 576th EUD, received the award on behalf of the unit.
“I continue to be thankful for the family support and thankful for the team we built,” McNamara said.
The award honors Lt. Gen. Emerson C. Itschner, who served as the Army chief of engineers from 1956-1961.
The 576th EUD is the first Virginia Army National Guard unit to win this award in the nearly 50 years it has been awarded to all three components. The National Guard represents nearly half of the United States Army Engineer Regiment’s 90,000 personnel, according to the Military Engineering Centre of Excellence.
The winners from the other two Army components are the Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 926th Engineer Brigade from the U.S. Army Reserve and Bravo Company, 29th Brigade Engineer Battalion from the active duty.
The 576th served on federal active duty supporting U.S. Central Command’s Operation Spartan Shield from May 2022 to February 2023. HHC 926th Engineer Brigade served as the headquarters two-levels up from the 576th while in theater.
“Virginia has some of the best military engineers anywhere. We trusted our leaders and Soldiers to take care of each other and the mission,” said Sgt. 1st Class Shaun Howard, the 576th detachment sergeant.
During the deployment, about 55 Soldiers assigned to the 576th supported U.S. Central Command's Operation Spartan Shield where they completed vital infrastructure projects and made significant improvements to U.S. and partner nation's physical security through the creation of traffic control points, gates, bunkers, guard towers and battle positions in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The unit operated in decentralized squads and teams and influenced multiple top ten priority engineering projects for U.S. Army Central.
Soldiers of the 576th established relationships with multiple base and maneuver commanders in the region and these relationships allowed the engineer battalion commander to position engineer forces across the Middle East.
They completed 113 named projects and hundreds of work orders over 24,000 hours of labor, including more than 3,000 hours of vehicle operations without a reportable accident. The detachment fostered relationships with partner nations; revamped movement with roads, helipads, and runways; enhanced protection with guard towers and barriers; bolstered sustainment with sanitary and water system projects; synergized intelligence by erecting surveillance assets and fabricating operations centers; enabled strategic fires assets with electrical and security repairs; and empowered mission command at the engineer company commander level.
This was the first overseas mobilization for the 576th, which was stood up in 2017. The unit moved from Onancock to Virginia Beach in 2019.