by Maj. Gus LaFontaine, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The 206th Engineer Battalion of Owensboro, Ky. recently returned from a nine-month deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
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The battalion served alongside units from
South Carolina, North Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and the
U.S. Army Reserve. The engineering units formed Task Force Frontier. The task
force provided construction management, planning, design, and resourcing
support across Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, and Iraq.
Battalion Commander of the 206th, Lt. Col. Michael Lawson, reflected on the opportunity to serve in a joint environment.
“It was incredible. Not only did we serve with other National Guard units but we served with the Navy, Air Force, and Marines, as well as our coalition partners," said Lawson. "It was a tremendous experience to work with so many countries across 18 different forward operating bases.”
The 206th conducted more than 400 major construction missions and contributed around 38 million dollars of value to the operational effort.
Their missions ranged from developing base-wide drainage plans, renovating spaces for tactical operations centers, and a variety of force protection projects including the construction of guard towers, vehicle fighting positions, entry control points, and artillery firing points.
Lawson credited de-centralizing operations
as a key component of the battalion’s success. He cited a multi-country area of
operation that the battalion served as the driving factor behind that strategy.
He recognized the leadership needed to effectively execute that plan.
“The squad leaders, platoon sergeants, and platoon leaders were the driving force that made us successful," said Lawson. "We were successful because of their efforts. There was no battalion-sized mission that we did. It was all squad and platoon-level missions. Their independence and their ability to work autonomously made the whole battalion successful."
Notably, the 206th was stationed at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, when the base was struck by Iranian ballistic missiles on January 8. The attack forced 206th Soldiers to seek cover in the base’s bunkers for several hours.
After the attack, the group immediately began work on a multitude of projects including clearing debris from the airfield and facility repairs around the base.
"We were already busy, but we got even busier after the attack," said 1st Sgt. Chadwick Larkin. "I thought we really contributed to rebuilding the base after the attack."
Lawson added, “The morale remained high: the Soldiers were committed to the mission and showed a tremendous amount of resiliency. I am extremely proud of their efforts during that challenging time."
Now that the unit has returned to Kentucky,
Lawson feels the battalion is ready to serve even better due to their
experience in the Middle East.
“The team that we built is an incredible organization," Lawson said. "Spending these last 11 months with our Soldiers has allowed us to know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. We can bring that back to the state of Kentucky and help the commonwealth even more in times of need.”
The Honorable Tom Watson, Mayor of Owensboro, Ky., and long-time supporter of the Kentucky National Guard, was among the first Kentuckians to welcome the engineers home.
"As a community, we are extremely proud of the National Guard and all they do for Kentucky, and the world," Watson said. "Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we are unable to give them the welcome they deserve right now. But, we are proud to safely welcome these heroes back into our community. Their sacrifices will not be forgotten and a true celebration is hopefully still to come."