Saturday, December 18, 2021

Seventy Five Years in Swainsboro: The 810th Engineer Company

By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

National Guard history is intrinsically linked with community history as the ties between a town and its local National Guard unit run deep. Such is the case with Swainsboro and its 810th Engineer Company which celebrates the anniversary of its federal recognition December 18.

Lieutenant General Albert Watson II, commanding general of the 3rd U.S. Army reviews the 5th Medium Tank Battalion, 108th Armored Regiment, 48th
Armored Division August 24, 1963 with Lt. Col. William L. Britton Jr. of Augusta at Augusta. Georgia National Guard Archives.

Constituted July 5 1946 in the Georgia National Guard as Battery C, 101st Antiaircraft Automatic Weapons Battalion[1] the Swainsboro unit was federally recognized Dec. 18, 1947. On July 1, 1959, the unit was reorganized to form Battery C, 2nd Gun Battalion, 214th Field Artillery.[2] A reorganization of May 1, 1962 established Company B, 5th Medium Tank Battalion, 108th Armor in Swainsboro.[3] The following year, the unit was again reorganized as Company B, 3rd Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment.[4] When Georgia’s 48th Armor Division was inactivated January 1, 1968, the Swainsboro unit was redesignated Company A, 878th Engineer Battalion.[5]

 In 1968 Company A, 878th was awarded the Eisenhower Trophy which was presented annually to the best company in the Georgia Army National Guard. Captain. Alton Lawson, commanding Company A accepted the award from Maj. Gen. George Hearn, Georgia’s Adjutant General.[6]

Following civil unrest in Augusta in May 1970 the Swainsboro unit was among the Georgia National Guard units dispatched to maintain peace and order.[7] The following year, Swainsboro Guardsmen utilizing equipment of the Fort Stewart-based 575th Engineer Battalion completed multiple projects at Fort Stewart and the Georgia Garrison Training Center.[8] Company A completed the work during unit training assemblies from February to April.


Guardsmen of the 878th Engineer Battalion help clear the streets of Swainsboro Feb. 10, 1973 following a record-breaking snowfall.
Georgia National Guard Archives.

Record snowfall in February 1973 prompted the activation of the Swainsboro engineers. Soldiers of Company A operating heavy equipment cleared local roads and assisted in clearing sections of Interstate 16.

Company A was reorganized and redesignated Oct. 1, 1976 as Company D, 878th Engineer Battalion. In 1982, the 878th completed its largest project to date. Rotating units, the 878th completed site preparation and grading at Dobbins Air Force Base for the hangar and office facilities of the 158th and 159th Military Intelligence Companies who flew the OV-1 Mohawk aircraft.[9] These properties are currently the home of the 201st Regional Support Group, 265th Chemical Battalion and 4th Civil Support Team.

 Following more than a decade as Company D, the Swainsboro unit was reorganized and redesignated Dec. 1, 1988 as Company A, 878th Engineer Battalion.[10] Company D was pressed into service in 1994 when heavy rains caused massive flooding across southwest Georgia. The engineers cleared debris and repaired roads damaged by Tropical Storm Alberto.

 Company A was ordered into federal service March15 2003 with the 878th Battalion and mobilized to Iraq. The unit conducted military construction missions for 15 months before returning to the United States. The unit was again activated Sept. 22, 2005 and mobilized to Iraq. The 81 Soldiers operated from bases near Tikrit and Kirkuk before returning to the United States in November 2006 returned to state control Jan. 28, 2007.

 On Sept. 1, 2007, Company A relocated to Augusta while a consolidation of Company A Detachment 1 and the Lyons and Sandersville detachments of the 878th Engineer Battalion established the 810th Engineer Company constituted the 810th Engineer Company in Swainsboro. [11]


A few of the more than 100 members of Swainsboro’s 810th pose for a parting picture before departing for one year to Afghanistan Sept. 20, 2009.
Georgia National Guard Archives.

The 810th deployed to Afghanistan Sept 20, 2009. Throughout its deployment, the 810th Engineer Company conducted over 390 route clearance missions and cleared over 30,000 miles of road, enabling commanders there to move supplies and troops safely and freely throughout the battlefield. On June 26, 2010, Sgt. David Holmes of the 810th Engineer Company was killed when his vehicle was struck by an IED. Sergeant 1st Class Edgar Roberts was mortally wounded in the same attack and died of his wounds August 17, 2010. The 810th returned to Georgia Sept 16, 2010.


Swainsboro’s own 810th Engineer Company’s main body returned from Afghanistan to Volk Field
 Wisconsin. deomobilized at Fort McCoy and returned to Fort Stewart Sept. 16, 2010.  Photo by Capt. Will Cox

Soldiers of the 810th spent annual training in Germany in July 2011.[12] Two years later, the 810th received CBRNE search and rescue familiarization at the Guardian Center in Perry Georgia in support of the Region 4 Homeland Response Force mission to maintain readiness for future CBRNE incidents.[13] In 2015 the 810th put their CBRNE training to work during Exercise Vigilant Guard in South Carolina.[14] Part of Joint Task Force 781, the 810 was responsible for locating and extracting victims from a collapsed structure.


Combat engineers with the 810th Engineer Company, Joint Task Force 781, Georgia National Guard assess and clear debris from a simulated
collapsed building site in Georgetown, S.C., March 8, 2015, during Vigilant Guard South Carolina. Vigilant Guard is a series of federally funded disaster-response
 drills conducted by National Guard units working with federal, state and local emergency management agencies and first responders. Photo by Capt. William Carraway

In May 2015, the 810th along with the 848th Engineer Company became the first Guard engineers to field the M-7 Spider System – a man-portable, remotely controlled force protection munition dispensing set.[15] In October of that year, following Hurricane Joachin, nearly 70 Soldiers of the 810th rushed to Hephzibah, Georgia to fill sandbags to help stave off flooding in South Carolina.[16] In October 2016, the 810th mobilized to Glynn County, Ga. in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.[17]


Soldiers of the Georgia Army National Guard’s 810th Engineer Company conduct a controlled detonation at the remote Vaziani Training Area.
The 810th trained with Georgian Armed Forces in support of Exercise Noble Partner 2017. Photo by Capt. William Carraway 

In the past five years, the 810th Engineer Company has completed unprecedented training and real-world missions at home and overseas. 2017 found 65 Soldiers of the 810th a half a world away supporting exercise Noble Partner in the Country of Georgia.[18] Soldiers of the 810th were among thousands of activated to support the state’s coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In January 2021, Swainsboro’s Citizen Soldiers were called to duty in the nation’s capital to provide security for the presidential inauguration.

Specialist Robert English, a combat engineer with the 810th Engineer Company, provides security near the U.S. Capitol, Feb. 21, 2021.
Photo by Sgt. 1st Class R.J. Lannom Jr.

[1] AGAO-I 325, 23 January 1951.


[2] OA 73-59, 10 July 1959.


[3] OA 47-62, 16 April 1962.


[4] OA 57-63, 21 March 1963.


[5] OA 71-67, 14 December 1967.


[6] “Mees, Scruggs, Gaines Awarded Distinctive Service Medal.” The Georgia Guardsman. May August 1968, 7.


[7] “Governor Sends 2,000 Ga. Guardsmen to Augusta, Athens to Restore Calm in Wake of May Civil Disturbances.” The Georgia Guardsman. April – June 1970 3-4.


[8] “NG Unit Aids Fort Stewart.” The Georgia Guardsman Magazine. January-June 1971, 8.


[9] “Guard Engineers Complete Largest Project.” The Georgia Guardsman. March 1982, 15.


[10] OA 34-89, 23 February 1989.


[11] OA 112-08, 21 May 2008.


[12] Alexander Gantt. “Guard Engineers Conduct Annual Training in Southeast Germany. The Georgia Guardsman. August 2011, 3-4.


[13] Steven Bennett. “810th Engineers: Three Days of Disaster.” The Georgia Guardsman, August 2013, 16.


[14] Christopher Stephens. “Operation Vigilant Guard.” The Georgia Guardsman. March 2015, 3-4.


[15] William Carraway. “Georgia Guard Engineers First to Field M-7 System. The Georgia Guardsman. May 2015. 10-11.


[16] William Carraway. “Guard Responds to Hurricane Joachin.” The Georgia Guardsman. October 2015, 5-6.


[17] Desiree Bamba. “Hurricane Matthew: The Georgia Guard Responds.” The Georgia Guardsman. Fall 2016 11-14.


[18] William Carraway. “Operation Noble Partner. The Georgia Guardsman. Q3 2017, 19-20.

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