On Saturday the military history of West Plains began a new chapter as the 1142nd Engineer Company (Sappers) of the Missouri National Guard was officially activated during a ceremony at the National Guard Armory.
“We’re ready to get to work and ready to do what’s necessary to protect our community and our nation,” said Capt. Kacey Proctor, commanding officer of the 1142nd.
During the ceremony, in honor of his new command, Capt. Proctor was presented with a flag from the U.S. Capitol by a representative from Sen. Roy Blunt’s office.
Lt. Col. Scott Ratcliff, commanding officer of the 1140th Engineer Battalion, also spoke at the ceremony and stressed to the troops the importance of not only their duty as soldiers but maintaining balance in what he considered the three most important areas in one’s life: faith, family and career.
The troops were also joined by local dignitaries such as Mayor Jack Pahlmann, 154th District State Rep. David Evans and 33rd District State Sen. Mike Cunningham.
The 1142nd continues the lineage left by the 1138th Military Police Company which was officially deactivated in Jan.
The 1142nd is designated as a sapper unit. Sappers in the U.S. Army are combat engineers whose primary mission is to support front-line infantry.
The word “sapper” comes from the French word sapuer, which itself is derived from the verb saper meaning “to undermine, to dig under walls and buildings to cause their collapse.”
The act of undermining can be traced back to medieval siege warfare where tunnels were dug under the foundations of city and fortress walls in order to weaken them. Later, when gunpowder became widely available siege warfare changed and the tunnels would be filled with explosives, causing much devastation.
As cannon and musket fire became more dangerous, the term evolved to include the act of digging trench lines to protect troops and allow them to safely approach enemy fortifications.
Modern-day sappers have many tasks some of which include clearing paths through minefields, neutralizing enemy fortifications and demolishing structures.
To earn the sapper tab in the U.S. Army, a soldier must attend an intensive 28-day leadership course at Fort Leonard Wood.