Tuesday, May 28, 2024

History of Headquarters Company, 878th Engineer Battalion

By Major William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard


Left: The distinctive unit insignia of the 878th Engineer Battalion. Right: Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers of the 878th Engineer Battalion
return from Afghanistan to their home Armory in Augusta Nov. 23, 2013. Photo by Maj. Will Cox.

The 878th Engineer Battalion was organized and federally recognized May 28, 1968; however, the Richmond Hussars, whose lineage is perpetuated by Headquarters Company of the 878th, has a much longer history.


Early History[1]

 On December 16, 1786, a troop of horse, designated the Augusta Dragoons, was organized at Augusta and attached to the 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment, Georgia Militia. This troop was reorganized in June 1819 as the Richmond Hussars and attached to the 10th Regiment, Georgia Militia. In February, 1836, the Richmond Hussars entered federal service as infantry for service in the Second Creek War where they participated in the Florida Campaign.

On March 3, 1856, the Independent Volunteer Battalion of Augusta was formed to consist of six volunteer companies, including the Clinch Rifles, Oglethorpe Rifles and Richmond Hussars. During the American Civil War, the Hussars served as Company A and Company I of Cobb’s Legion. The Hussars served in many of the major engagements of the eastern theater and earned campaign credit for Virginia 1861, the Peninsula, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Wilderness, and North Carolina 1865 before surrendering at Greensboro, N.C. April 26, 1865.[2]


In 1873, the Richmond Hussars were reborn as a unit of the Georgia State Troops and served until 1891 when they were redesignated as Troop A, 1st Battalion Cavalry. This unit was subsequently redesignated Troop K of the 1st Cavalry and served on the Mexican Border from 1916 to 1917 as Troop K, 2nd Squadron of Cavalry.[3]

The Georgia cavalry at Camp Cotton, El Paso, Texas in 1916. Photo by 2nd Lt. Vivian Roberts


The World Wars

 Returning from the border, the Troop was redesignated as Company C, 106th Field Signal Battalion, a unit of the 31st Division, and sent to Camp Wheeler for mobilization training. The 31st Division mobilized to France in October 1918, but was skeletonized upon arriving, and its units did not see active combat service. The Georgia Guard units of the 31st Division returned to the United States and were inactivated in 1919.

On October 2, 1939, the 214th Coast Artillery was constituted in the Georgia National Guard. Company A, 214th CA was organized in Augusta and carried forward the lineage of the Richmond Hussars. The 214th CA mobilized to Guadalcanal in 1943 and on October 11, 1943, the Richmond Hussars were redesignated as Company A, 528th Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion. The company served in the Pacific Theater throughout the war earning campaign streamers for Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Northern Solomons and the Ryukyus. The unit returned to the United States and was released from active service in 1945.[4]


Post War Reorganization

Soldiers of the 250th AAA BN in 1953
Georgia National Guard Archives.
In 1947, the Richmond Hussars were reunited with the Clinch Rifles and Oglethorpe Rifles to form the 250th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, an element of the 108th Antiaircraft Artillery Brigade.[5] The Richmond Hussars, as Headquarters Battery, was federally recognized May 28, 1947. On August 14, 1950, just days after North Korean forces crossed into South Korea, more than 1,000 Georgia Guardsmen of the 108th AAA were activated for federal service[6]. Batteries of the 108th were stationed around cities and industrial areas from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania as a counter to possible Soviet missile and bombing attacks. The guns of the 108th AAA remained on station through the spring of 1952 before receiving the order to rotate home.

 In 1959, the 250th was inactivated and the Richmond Hussars became Headquarters Battery, 1st Gun Battalion, 214th Field Artillery.[7] In 1962, the unit was again reorganized as Headquarters Company, 5th Medium Tank Battalion, 108th Armor Regiment[8] and bore this distinction until 1968 when it received its present designation as Headquarters Company, 878th Engineer Battalion.[9] The 878th was assigned to the Atlanta Based 265th Engineer Group.[10]


Mobilizations and Deployments

In February 1973, more than 19 inches of snow fell over central Georgia. The 878th Engineer Battalion was called to state active duty to assist stranded motorists and clear roads.[11] In 1980, the 878th, then affiliated with the 92nd Engineer Battalion at Fort Stewart, constructed the Boy Scout summer camp in Augusta.[12]


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

In 1985, the 878th conducted annual training in Grenada where the engineers renovated and repaired schools on the island and trained citizens in construction techniques.[13] Personnel of the 878th deployed to Somalia in 1986 to survey a bridge project. Additional personnel travelled to Panama and participated in exercises Gallant Knight, Caber Dragon and Red Castle II.[14] The following year, personnel travelled to Jordan and Egypt for Exercise Bright Star.[15] In 1988, 878th personnel returned to Jordan and served as command and control for road construction projects in Amman.[16]

 In 1989, a reorganization of the 878th increased the headquarters company from 140 to 230 personnel. That same year, the 878th fielded the Small Unit Excavating Equipment (SEE) vehicle and mobilized to Somalia and Jordan.[17]

 The 878th was mobilized in July 1994 following torrential rains of Tropical Storm Alberto that caused wide-spread flooding throughout South Georgia. The Engineers repaired washed out roads, cleared culverts, and removed debris.[18]


MONTEZUMA, Ga. July, 1994 - Soldiers of the Augusta-based 878th Engineer Battalion bulldoze fresh dirt over a washed-out road in response to
Tropical Storm Alberto. Photo by Spc. Chris Pearson.

In 1999, the 878th participated in Operation Caribbean Castle in the Dominican Republic. This operation involved more than 500 engineers who conducted three separate 15- day annual training periods from May to June. In the course of the mobilizations, the engineers constructed three schools which were desperately needed following the devastation on Hurricane Georges which struck the island in 1998.[19]

In the summer of 2002, the 878th Engineer Battalion was called upon to use its engineering expertise to demolish abandoned buildings that posed a health and safety risk in neighborhoods across the state as part of the Governor’s Counter Drug efforts.[20] The 878th’s efforts took place in Atlanta, Swainsboro and Tallapoosa. The 878th would again partner with the CDTF and city of Atlanta for blighted building eradication in 2015.[21]

The 878th was ordered into active federal service April 1, 2003 at home stations for service during Operation Iraqi Freedom. As part of Task Force Baghdad, the 878th served for more than a year in and around the Iraqi capital before returning the state control August 3, 2004.[22] Subordinate units of the 878th Engineer Battalion were subsequently called to mobilize in support of overseas contingency operations.

In the summer of 2009, Soldiers of the 878th Engineer Battalion joined more than 650 service members from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps in humanitarian efforts in Guyana. The 878th constructed a new clinic to serve the people of Penitence, a suburb of Georgetown. Joining the Headquarters Company in the effort were Soldiers from the 876th and 175th Engineer Companies. Soldiers of the battalion rotated into Guyana for 75 days for annual training.[23]

 In 2009, the 878th was assigned to the 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. The 878th has responded to south Georgia wildfires in the summer of 2011[25] and mobilized Soldiers to Hohenfels, Germany for annual training from May 19 to June 25, 2011.[26]


Georgia National Guard Soldiers from the 878th Task Force Dynamite stand in Afghanistan August 11, 2013. Georgia National Guard Archives.

The 878th mobilized to Afghanistan in March 2013[27] under the leadership of Lt. Col. Ed Granados and Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Logan. The 878th, as Task Force Dynamite, trained Afghan National Army Soldiers in explosives identification and eradication.[28] The battalion returned in November 2013.

 Just months after returning from Afghanistan, Soldiers of the 878th were activated in the wake of winter storms that swept the state in January and February 2014. Later that year, Soldiers of the 878th traveled to the country of Georgia to the small mountain town of Sachkhere where they renovated a local school.[29]


AUGUSTA, Ga., Feb.14, 2014 –  Staff Sgt. Eric Horne, a fueler with the 878th Engineer Battalion refuels a truck at the 878th Augusta armory during
response operations to Winter Storm Pax. Photo by Sgt. Michael Uribe.

The Augusta Engineers have been repeatedly called to assist civil authorities following hurricanes such as Joaquin, Irma, Michael and Dorian. The 878th participated in the state’s coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in 2021, mobilized personnel and equipment to Louisiana following Hurricane Ida.


Specialist Simeon George of the Augusta-based Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 878th Engineer Battalion directs traffic through
a vaccination site April 13, 2021, in Savannah, Georgia. Photo by Capt. Bryant Wine.

In addition to Headquarters Company and Company A, the 878th Engineer Battalion consists of the 177th Engineer Support Company, 848th Engineer Company, 863rd and 874th Engineer Utility Detachments, 877th Engineer Company and the newly constituted 876th Engineer Company. These engineer units themselves have a long history of overseas mobilizations and domestic operations which continues through 2024. 

[1] Gordon B. Smith. “Richmond Hussars.” January 28, 1978.


[2] Center for Military History, Lineage and Honors Certificate for the 878th Engineer Battalion


[3] Report of the Adjutant General, State of Georgia for the Year 1916. Atlanta, Ga.: Byrd Printing Company, 1917, 43.


[4] The Center for Military History. “Lineage and Honors of the 878th Engineer Battalion.”


[5] Military Department of the State of Georgia, GO 17. 31 December, 1946.


[7] RA 73-59, June 10, 1959.


[8] RA 47-62 April 16, 1962.


[9] RA 71-67 December 14, 1967.


[10] Annual Report, State of Georgia Department of Defense, 1968, Section IX.


[11] Carraway William, “45 Years Ago: Georgia National Guard Responds to 1973 Winter Storms.” Usarmy.mil, January 8, 2018. https://www.army.mil/article/198866/45_years_ago_georgia_national_guard_responds_to_1973_winter_storms#:~:text=In%2036%20hours%20of%20winter,one%20of%20those%20citizens%20rescued.


[12] Annual Report, State of Georgia Department of Defense, 1980, 15.


[13] Annual Report, State of Georgia Department of Defense, 1985, 4.


[14] Annual Report, State of Georgia Department of Defense, 1986, 5.


[15]Annual Report, State of Georgia Department of Defense, 1987, 3.


[16] Annual Report, State of Georgia Department of Defense, 1988, 2.


[17] Annual Report, State of Georgia Department of Defense, 1989, 4.

[18] Georgia Guardsman Magazine. September, 1994.


[19] Annual Report, State of Georgia Department of Defense, 1999, 10.


[20] Roy Henry/ “Another Crack house.” The Georgia Guardsman. Fall 2002, 14-15.


[21] “William Carraway. “CDTF Assists City of Atlanta.” The Georgia Guardsman. September 2015, 19.

[22] The Center for Military History. “Lineage and Honors of the 878th Engineer Battalion.”


[23] Roy Henry. “Georgia Engineers in Guyana for Humanitarian Operation.” The Georgia Guardsman. Vol . No. 6, 10.

 [25] Roy Henry. “National Guard Called to Assist with South Georgia Wildfires.” The Georgia Guardsman. July 2011, 17

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


[27] Roy Henry. “Augusta to Guardsmen. ‘Til We Meet Again.’” The Georgia Guardsman. March 2013, 7.

[28] Michael Bignardi. 78th Demolition Operations Training. The Georgia Guardsman. May 2013, 4.


[29] Sean McCulley. “SPP Building for Brighter Futures.” The Georgia Guardsman. November 2014, 5-6. 

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