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Calumet National Guard Armory

107th Engineer Battalion Insignia

107th Engineering Battalion
The 107th Engineer Battalion is a National Guard reserve component stationed across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It commands the 1430th out of Gladstone, MI, 1431st, out of Calumet, MI, 1432nd out of Kingsford, MI and 1437th out of Sault Ste. Marie; all company sized units under the 107th are Engineer Companies, like the battalion. The 107th is designated as a Combat Engineer Battalion.

A highway was dedicated to the 107th Engineer Battalion.  It stretches from Silver City, MI to the Porcupine Mountains [10].

Combat Engineer Battalions

Engineering has been acknowledged as playing a crucial role in the success of the Army.  The Corps of Engineers was permanently established in 1802, but its origins date back to 1779 [9].  Combat Engineer Battalions are sub units of the Corps of Engineers. Engineer Battalions are responsible for a multitude of tasks that has remained relatively unchanged since the American Civil War.  They are responsible for many civil engineer projects, both domestic and abroad.  They design and build dams and locks for water ways, construct flood protection and control systems, and ensuring waterways are maintained for transportation as well as monitoring environmental concerns and aiding in ecosystem restoration.  Combat Engineer Battalions design and construct military facilities for many federal agencies, including the Army, Air Force, and their reserve components [9].  Combat Engineer Battalions become especially important when the Army deploys, as they are the units responsible for building and maintaining the infrastructure that deployed units will rely on while abroad [9].

1431st Engineer Company

The 1431st Engineer Company is based in Calumet, Michigan, at the Calumet National Guard Armory.  The unit stationed in Calumet is an Engineering company, part of a Combat Engineer Battalion. The 1431st Company is a Sapper unit.  Those who have earned the title of Sapper in the United States Army are considered part of an elite force of combat engineers [6].  For a soldier to wear the Sapper tab, they must complete a 28-day course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, designed to train them to become Sapper Leaders that excel in concepts of mobility, demolitions, airborne operations and other engineering tasks.  Units must also maintain proficiency in engineering drills as specified by Army regulation.  The primary goals of the 1431st is “to provide a variety of combat engineering duties that involve facilitating movement and logistics of allied forces and impeding that of enemies” [12].

Origins of 1431st

The 1431st Engineer Company traces its roots back to the Michigan State Troops, a precursor to the National Guard.  Today, the 1431st Company’s home is a small, relatively unknown town in the middle of the Keweenaw Peninsula, however, during the 1880s, Calumet was a prospering mining town, holding much influence in the state of Michigan.  The Calumet Light Guard was established in 1881, as part of the Michigan State Troops and would have been an example unit for the rest of the state.  The Michigan State Troops would go on to be renamed the Michigan National Guard on the last day of December in 1894, following the nation in creating a uniform reserve unit [8].  The battalion was originally an Infantry Battalion and it was not until 1906 that it was transferred to the Corps of Engineers.  When the unit was activated in 2004 to deploy to Iraq, companies within the 107th Battalion were redesigned with numerical names instead of alphabetical.  Alpha Company became the 1431st, which is its present designation [8]. The 1431st Engineer company, which remains stationed in Calumet, Michigan, is the most direct descendant of the Calumet Light Guard Unit from 1881, as they both hail(ed) from the same location [8].

* Units in the Upper Peninsula like to date their lineage back even further to citizens from Calumet volunteering to serve the Union during the Civil War.  However, none of these men offered their service to the Calumet Light Guard, or Michigan State Troops so there is no official link between the Civil War soldiers and today’s upper peninsula units [11].

1431st Company (107th Battalion) History

As the 1431st Company did not officially become so until the early 2000s, telling its history can be challenging.  It is best told when the scope of the story is expanded to that of the 107th Battalion, whose name goes back much further than the 1431st’s.

The first official duties given to the 107th Battalion were to quell mining strikes throughout the Copper Country.  Thankfully, most of the local population saw the companies of the 107th as peacekeeping units and the soldiers not required to use force or fire power to pacify the situation between the striking miners and the company officials [11].

The War with Spain was the first time the 107th Battalion was placed into a combat role.  Then called Company A of the Michigan Engineer Corps, they traveled south to serve as border patrols in the Pancho Villa Expedition [11].

Months later, the unit was reactived to serve in World War I, where the battalion served under the same General it had with the Pancho Villa Expedition, General John Pershing. On the way to England, the unit’s boat was sunk by a German U-boat torpedo.  The sinking resulted in 200 casualties; however, none were from the 107th.  They resupplied before continuing to France, where they were tasked with creating defensive lines, building bridges and removing obstacles that might obstruct the advancing Allied army. After the war, the 107th remained in France to rebuild the infrastructure of over 80 demolished towns [10].

The 107th spent its time during World War II undoing the damage caused by the Germans, in hopes of slowing down advancing troops. This included building bridges, repairing roads and clearing mine fields.  The unit was forced into a combat role during the Battle of the Bulge as Germans broke through allied lines.  Communication errors made this battle especially deadly for the 107th, with 28 soldier killed and another 54 missing.  On a lighter note, the 107th was also responsible for building a bridge across the Rhine river in less than 14 hours (including a two-hour delay to wait for materials).  The bridge supported over 6000 passengers in only five days after its completion, including vehicle convoys and tanks [10].

Present Actions of the 1431st Engineers

The 1431st Company was deployed along with the 1430th to Iraq in 2004, three years ahead of battalion headquarters. While in Iraq, the 1431st conducted route clearance missions, a task the unit began very familiar with upon arriving in Iraq, but did not receive much training on before deployment [13].  After returning from Iraq, the unit began specific training on route clearance missions in order to stay ready on this heavily emphasized task. The classes contain detailed information on IEDs, route clearance techniques and mine detection. They also emphasize the  importance of staying alert in an area where enemies could be anywhere [7].

Upon returning from Iraq, the 1431st was classified as Sapper.  Many veterans from the unit’s deployment to Iraq returned to serve when the unit was redeployed to Afghanistan, with the primary mission to conduct route clearance patrols.  The 1431st was deployed to the Paktika Province, which contained the Khost-Gardez Pass.  The fight for the Pass resulted in regular confrontations with insurgents in the form of ambushes, firefights and motor and rocket fire.  Over the course of the unit’s deployment, several of their soldiers had to return to the United States because of the severity of their wounds; however, not one soldier from the 1431st lost their life while deployed in Afghanistan.  This is greatly attributed to the skills of the unit’s combat medics, who all receive the Combat Medic Badge for their service upon returning home.  “According to U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Robert Jeannote, the 1st Sgt. for the 1431st Engineers and a native of Hubbell, MI, the unit would be awarded more than 40 purple hearts for acts of courage during this mission” [4].  The unit’s time in Afghanistan was told in-part through Where Soldiers Come From, a PBS documentary made by a reporter following the unit during deployment.  A cheering crowd of local citizens and schoolchildren await the 1431st as they arrived home (see image:”Soldiers of the 1431st Company return home to Calumet after their deployment to Afghanistan [4]”).

Soldiers of the 1431st also volunteered to deploy back to Afghanistan in 2012 to serve as mentors to the 1432nd Engineer Company, as the 1432nd had only recently been converted to a combat engineer unit.

During May and June of 2015, the 1431st Engineer Company traveled to Hohenfels, Germany to receive training with Latvian forces in Germany. The exercise was part of Combined Resolve IV, a twice yearly exercise between the US and European armies to train together in a “multinational and integrated environment.”  The program was designed to help prep American forces “to be more flexible, agile and better able to operate alongside Allies and partners in the region” should units be deployed, as almost all deployments require international cooperation [6].  This was not the first time Michigan National Guard Troops had trained alongside Latvians.  Relations were formed back in 1993 when the two units were paired under the State Partnership Program, a program based in the Baltic Region designed to strengthen the military of countries emerging from the former Soviet Bloc [6].  One of the exercises completed by the 1431st were, shooting an AK4, a first for the UP troops.  Soldiers lay in a line in prone position while shooting a targets across an empty field (see image below: “Michigan National Guard soldiers shoot an AK4 from prone with Latvian counter parts [2]”).  The Latvian forces also got to train with the US Army’s standard rifle, the M4 (see Image below: “Latvian forces train with M4 [3]”).

Calumet Armory Boulder

Outside the Calumet Armory there is a large rock, large enough that it is probably better off being called a boulder.  The rock stands over seven feet tall, and is large enough that two grown men could not wrap their arms around it.  It weighs more than a few tons. It has been painted fire-truck red with the 1431st insignia and motto marking its front face.  It stands tall just outside the entrance to the armory, centered between the building, the road and the armory’s parking lot.

The 1431st Engineer Company, in a bit of inter battalion rivalry, is rumored to have stolen the boulder from another Engineering Company downstate.  The rock used to be painted with their company crest and sit outside their armory.  On night in the early 2000s, members of the 1431st company arrived at the armory in the middle of the night with shovels, ropes and a bit of heavy machinery. They dug around the boulder, lifted it onto a truck and had it shipped up to the Upper Peninsula to its current location outside the 1431st’s new Armory building [1].  The theft was taken lightly by the other company and decided that if the 1431st wanted the rock that badly they ought to keep it (for now). No attempts at retrieving the rock have been made by the other company.

Shooting AK4 for the first time
Michigan National Guard soldiers shoot an AK4 from prone with Latvian counter parts [2]

Latvian forces train with M4
Latvian forces train with M4 [3]

DvidsHub Image
1431st Company simulating Road Clearing Maneuvers [5]

1431st Staff Sgt. sets up an early warning system
1431st Staff Sgt. sets up an early warning system while training in Latvia [14]

Soldiers return home
Soldiers of the 1431st Company return home to Calumet after their deployment to Afghanistan [4]

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Further Reading