NEWS | July 1, 2021

Kentucky Guard Engineers awarded top Platoon, Company

By Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Crane, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

The 2020 Engineer Regiment award winners were announced in March and both Kentucky Engineer Battalions were represented in the winners’ tally.

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 206th Engineers won the Itschner Award for best Engineer Company and 2nd Lt. John Cecconi of 207th Engineer Construction Company won the Munson Award for best Engineer Platoon in the Army National Guard. 

This marks the fourth straight year that a Kentucky Engineer Company has been named the best in the Guard (207th, 2061st, 577th, and HHC 206th).

"Winning this award means that I work with the best Soldiers, NCOs, and Officers that the Engineer Regiment has to offer,” said Cecconi. “My Soldiers are dedicated professionals and are experts at what they do. They work harder, longer hours than I could ever ask them to, and they do so voluntarily.”

Cecconi took control of a platoon that had spent the majority of their military career executing horizontal construction missions and had recently transitioned to a vertical construction mission set. He was able to successfully plan and execute training that started by evaluating basic task proficiency and ended with his soldiers displaying complete task proficiency. Even when forced to quickly pivot from the company’s original annual training mission due to COVID-19, he was able to fully develop a second training plan that included five different mission sets composed of the functional areas of carpentry, plumbing, electricity, and masonry.

According his senior leadership, Cecconi displays exemplary care and compassion for his Soldiers and constantly develops unique training plans and pushes for more opportunities in which to train his Soldiers.

During this year’s annual training, he elevated the overall competency level of his platoon by empowering junior enlisted Soldiers to teach carpentry, plumbing, electricity, and masonry classes in order to prepare these Soldiers for future leadership opportunities. Cecconi cross trained Soldiers on tasks outside of their designated military occupation specialty construction training booth’s, which he designed, planned for and provided a modern training tool for his platoon that has enough versatility to be remain a staple of training plans for years to come. Also during their annual training, all of the Soldiers in Cecconi’s platoon took part in an equipment accountability system that resulted in every tool remaining accounted for even though his crews were spread out and working separately across the state. He planned and executed the construction of pull-up bars at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center that are to be used by Soldiers across the state of Kentucky during preparation for and execution of the Army Combat Fitness Test .

While on a state active duty mission to facilitate testing throughout the state of Kentucky, he conducted daily wellness screenings of his Soldiers and organized the procurement of protective equipment that provided a safe working environment in extremely challenging conditions.

During this state active duty mission, he led the removal of several fallen trees from the armory following a strong windstorm while developing a new preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) procedure for his platoon in order to promote equipment accountability and ensure a higher level of equipment maintenance. The completion of these construction projects was made even more difficult by restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to his general care in construction safety, Cecconi implemented measures that included guidelines for mask wear, social distancing, hand washing, rest plans, temperature checks, and COVID-19 testing. As a result, his platoon suffered zero serious injuries during the course of their annual training and also experienced zero positive COVID-19 cases.

“My only goal is to put my Soldiers in the best possible position to be successful. Any success that I have enjoyed during my time as a platoon leader is because of their hard work. Winning an award is great and exciting and a huge honor, but it honestly wouldn’t mean anything if I wasn’t actually having a positive impact on my Soldiers,” said Cecconi.

He used his experience from his civilian job as a construction project manager to conduct quality assurance to ensure that his projects were completed to the highest possible standard.

“The way that I do things is by no means the only way or even the best way to do things. I am constantly making mistakes and just trying to learn from them,” said Cecconi. He went on to list the things that are important to him and drives where he puts his focus;
-Always be yourself. Soldiers will see right through you if you are putting on an act.
-Be a part of your unit. Learn about your Soldiers and care about them and their lives.
-Always be learning. Every single person in your unit will know something that you don’t, so always be open to their input and suggestions.
-Be a professional. Do the job you are paid to do and be the leader your Soldiers deserve. -Always have a reason for doing something. Soldiers deserve an answer when they ask “why”. Saying “because it’s the Army” or any variation thereof is a lazy and unacceptable answer.

Cecconi attended the University of Kentucky JD Rosenberg College of Law and was granted a three-year academic scholarship as recognition for his academic achievements. There, he is an active participant in the Student Bar Association and the Sports and Entertainment Law Society. He’s completed training and received certificates for OSHA 30 and 40-hour safety courses and maintains a part time job as a salesman at Bourbon Barrel Market in Lexington, KY.

Cecconi and members of HHC 206th will be accepting their awards during a ceremony to be held at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, in late August.

The Itschner Award, first awarded by Society of American Military Engineers in 1960, is named in honor of Lt. Gen. C. Itschner, USA. The plaque was presented to the most outstanding U.S. Army engineering company during a year. In 1974, the competition for the Itschner Award was broadened to include the Army National Guard and the Army reserve. The award is given annually to outstanding Army engineering units.