by Capt. Richard Packer
U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs
5/22/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- U.S.
Army Alaska's 2d Engineer Brigade, recognized by the unique seahorse
shoulder patch, inactivated for the third time since its constitution 73
years ago during a ceremony on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson's
Pershing Field May 15.
The Arctic Trailblazers have served in Alaska since September 2011 when
the 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade reflagged to become 2d Engineer
Brigade. The 3rd MEB had activated two years prior, at a time when the
Army was still expanding to meet the demands of fighting wars in Iraq
Both brigades afforded necessary mission command to a wide range of
force-multiplier modular units with capabilities including chemical,
finance, explosive ordnance disposal, engineer, military police and
logistics. The largest difference between the organizations was 2d
Engineer Brigade being equipped with a technical headquarters section
staffed with engineers. This provided the brigade expertise necessary to
manage construction and technical engineer planning and project
With the Army downsizing to meet fiscal requirements set by the Budget
Control Act of 2011, 2d Engineer Brigade was identified in 2013 to
inactivate by the end of fiscal year 2015. As the brigade was preparing
in 2014 for inactivation the Army added further levels of complexity by
slotting the brigade headquarters for a deployment to Afghanistan while
also moving the inactivation date sooner by two months.
"Despite the fact that the operational deployments started to pick up in
2013, the Army upped the stakes by accelerating the inactivation
timeline," said Col. Pete Andrysiak, commander of 2d Engineer Brigade,
during the inactivation ceremony. "The bulk of the work would fall dead
center of the (brigade) headquarters' deployment to Afghanistan. You
can't make this stuff up."
Andrysiak also highlighted the brigade's accomplishments and
responsibilities during deployment where they served as the
International Security Assistance Force's final theater engineer
brigade. These included training and advising the Afghan army's only
national engineer brigade and synchronizing the deconstruction mission
of bases across the nation resulting in 61 of 86 bases closing or
transferring to the Afghans.
"Like all other units we also had to redeploy and retrograde all of the
equipment left in Afghanistan over the years," Andrysiak said.
Maj. Gen. Mike Shields, commander of U.S. Army Alaska, also spoke during
the ceremony. His closing remarks were focused on the legacy of 2d
Engineer Brigade and giving direction to the brigade's Soldiers.
"Anywhere the nation needs effective forces, it calls on those who serve
in the Last Frontier. We are a special breed of Soldiers and our
adversaries know it," Shields said. "That will carry on for all of you
as you transition into the brigade engineer battalions here and at Fort
Wainwright or other units across the Army. Take pride in being an Arctic
Trailblazer with you wherever you may go next."
The ceremony was attended by two special guests. Jack Reed, who is 91
years old, served in 2d Engineer Brigade, known then as 2d Engineer
Amphibian Brigade, during World War II. He was accompanied by Edwin
Leard III whose grandfather, Edwin Leard, also served with the brigade
and was killed in New Guinea.
The 2d Engineer Brigade's final remaining battalion, the 17th Combat
Sustainment Support Battalion, stood in formation and changed their left
shoulder sleeve patches identifying their parent unit during the
The battalion command team, Lt. Col. John Gaivin and Command Sgt. Maj.
Pamela Brown, first removed each others' 2d Engineer Brigade seahorse
patches and replaced them with U.S. Army Alaska's polar bear patch
before proceeding to do the same for the rest of their Soldiers.