Compared to years past, the U.S. Army Engineer School’s 2020 Engineer Regimental Week celebration looked a little different. It happened a little later on the calendar and was condensed down to two days. However, the opportunities to honor fallen Sappers and share information across the Regiment were unaffected.
According to USAES Commandant Brig. Gen. Mark Quander, the livestreamed, virtual nature of many of the events presented some unique strengths.
“The Engineer School had a great opportunity to gather over 500 stations from around the world to focus on the CSA’s (Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville) priorities of People First and Winning Matters,” he said.
The two days of events were kicked off with an address from the Chief of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, who spoke Sept. 17 on key updates and the state of the Engineer Regiment.
“It’s incredibly important for us to understand how our Engineer units are standing from a readiness perspective, what capabilities they have, what capability gaps they may have and what they need from us,” he said. “Our senior leaders are aligned on readiness, modernization, reform and, of course, people.”
Quander addressed the Regiment later that afternoon from Lincoln Hall Auditorium.
“The foundation for all of us are our values,” he said. “The first thing we do is we’ve got to lift each other up and treat people with dignity and respect, because if we don’t do that it’s not going to give us the foundation we need as Engineers — as a Regiment. We build people up and we solve problems. All over the globe — at home and abroad — you see Engineers solving tough problems for our nation.”
That evening, Quander spoke at a Fallen Sapper Tribute ceremony at Sapper Grove, where the names of three fallen Sappers were added to the Sapper Memorial wall: Staff Sgt. Ian McLaughlin and Spcs. Antonio Moore and Miguel Villalon.
“Today we remember and honor three Engineer Soldiers — brave men who died while in courageous service to our nation,” he said. “Engineers are no strangers to the perils of battle. We’re the first ones into the fight; the first ones into the breach; and we willingly face the guns of the enemy to allow those behind us to continue on and seize the objective. That’s what we do.”
Speaking of McLaughlin, Moore and Villalon, Quander said they each came from different backgrounds but “shared fundamental qualities.”
“They embodied courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and great personal integrity,” he said. “All the qualities needed to serve a cause larger than oneself.”
The week concluded Friday with a tree-dedication ceremony for Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite at the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Plaza. The dedication was in recognition of his service as the 54th Chief of Engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Now preparing to retire after 41 years of service, Semonite and his wife, Connie, unveiled a stone dedication marker bearing his name next to the latest Mount Vernon Red Maple planted on the west side of the plaza’s south lawn. The trees are dedicated to each Chief of Engineers as their service is completed and are grown from seeds originating from the Virginia estate of George Washington.
Quander presented Semonite with a dedication certificate, a framed display of the Corps of Engineers heraldry and colors, as well as a book chronicling the history of the corps.
“Your dedication to the service to our nation has been absolutely extraordinary,” Quander said.
For the Semonites, the ceremony doubled as a homecoming, as they recalled Fort Leonard Wood was where they first met, got married, had their first child and owned their first home.
“To Connie and I, this means an awful lot,” he said. “We’ve always had a great love for the people of Fort Leonard Wood and the community of Fort Leonard Wood, and I want to make sure the community knows when it comes to outreach — making Soldiers and families feel appreciated — Fort Leonard Wood does it better than anywhere.”