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Posted 4/4/2017

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By Lisa Hunter
USACE Mobile

A Mobile District employee was recognized for his work as the recovery leader for a joint American and Vietnamese team that spent a month in Vietnam conducting an archaeological excavation in an effort to recover military personnel lost during the Vietnam War.

Matt Grunewald is one of the archeologists assigned to the Mobile District. The archeologists are responsible for all aspects of cultural resources support for the district. One of the archeologists’ most significant missions is to protect archaeological sites and interpret data from historic artifacts found at various Corps sites for the American public and Tribal partners.

Grunewald, who has worked for the Mobile District for eight years, served as the recovery leader for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) from July to September 2016. The DPAA’s mission is to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing American personnel to their families and the Nation. To prepare for the mission, Grunewald spent several weeks training at the DPAA’s lab in Hawaii.

In Vietnam, Grunewald served as the mission’s recovery leader, which placed him in charge of all technical aspects of the recovery mission.

“We were sent to investigate an incident from the Vietnam War that resulted in a loss of American personnel that were not recovered during the war,” Grunewald explained. “The DPAA conducts vigorous background work before we are sent to the field. Evidence from previous investigations and archival research were used to determine the excavation area. The purpose of our mission was to continue excavations at the incident site in an attempt to recover lost American personnel.”

Grunewald’s team was assigned to a mission in the Quang Tri Province, an area with very rugged terrain. During the month-long mission, Grunewald and his team lived austere conditions in a jungle base camp.

To overcome the challenges of the steep slope, erosion management, and previous disturbances from war-time activities, Grunewald developed an advanced research design that helped the team to successfully complete their mission.  

“Being selected by DPAA as a recovery leader and leading the technical aspects of this recovery effort was the greatest honor of my professional career” As an archeologist assigned to the Mobile District, Grunewald is primarily responsible for cultural resources support for the military projects in the District’s Planning Division as a member of the Environmental Branch Inland Cultural Resources Team.

For his dedication and ingenuity, the Mobile District Commander, Col. James DeLapp presented Grunewald with the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service, March 8. DeLapp stated that Grunewald was the only civilian member on the team.

“Matt not only volunteered to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, he also volunteered to travel to Vietnam to provide his technical expertise on this recovery mission,” DeLapp said. “Matt’s expertise in archeology and leadership were a major contribution in keeping the Nation’s promise to all servicemen and servicewomen that they will not be left behind.”