“Changing The Answer To Yes”: Commanding Engineers In Combat And Taking Care Of Families On Post

Michael F. Colacicco


COL(R) Michael Colacicco came from a large Italian-American family. His grandparents were immigrants who settled in New York. It became a family tradition to join the New York National Guard, and his father and uncles all served. His father, Frank, wanted a college education, and attended West Point, graduating in 1940. He served in World War II as an Infantry Officer in the 18th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. Near the end of the war, he was seriously wounded, and after extended treatment at Walter Reed, he was medically retired, but served in the CIA attached to Army Headquarters for the rest of his career. His two older sons, Michael and John, grew up playing with his Cadet uniforms, and both decided to attend West Point, Michael with the Class of 69 and John with the Class of 70. Michael worked hard and did well in school, earning academic stars, although he struggled with the Department of Physical Education. During his time at the Academy, the Vietnam War was in full swing, and Reservists were called to Active Duty to teach. Additionally, the Corps expanded, with two new regiments created and two new barracks (Eisenhower Hall and Mahan Hall) built. When he graduated, he branched Engineer, and within a year was the Aide to the Commanding General of the Mobility Equipment Command. He then volunteered for duty in Vietnam, and served in the 8th Engineer Battalion as both a Platoon Leader and Company Commander. He enjoyed this assignment, supporting the Infantry and Artillery and building fire bases. Incidentally, his brother John was deployed to Vietnam as an Armor Officer at the same time, but the two never met. Returning home the last day of 1971, he entered the Engineer Officer Advanced Course, and later gained tremendous practical experience supporting disaster relief following Hurricane Agnes, which devastated the areas around the Potomac and Susquehanna Rivers. He then attended the University of Michigan, earning Master’s Degrees in History and in Engineering. From 1975 to 1978, he taught military history at the Academy, and found the assignment to be not only great family time, but also very professionally rewarding as well. Following his assignment at West Point, he joined the Berlin Brigade and served there until 1981. Returning from Europe, he was assigned to Ft. Bragg and served in the XVIII Airborne Corps and as the S3, Operations Officer, of the 548th Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy). He followed this assignment with a tour at Leavenworth in the Combined Arms Combat Development Activity, which is the Army’s long-range research and development program. From 1988 until his retirement in 1999, he served in various Directorates of Engineering and Housing and Departments of Public Works at Giessen in Germany, Ft. Riley, Kansas, and West Point. After retiring, he reentered the Housing and Public Works arena as a civilian. In this interview, he talks about his family history, his West Point years, and his Army experiences. He highlights both positive and negative leadership lessons he learned at various stages in his career. He discusses his family’s continued service to the nation, and ends by reflecting on what West Point and his service mean to him.


conflicts Vietnam War Cold War
topics Leadership Camaraderie Teamwork Military Family Life After Military West Point History Civilians
interviewer David Siry
date 13 March 2020


name Michael F. Colacicco
institution USMA
graduation year 1969
service Engineer
unit 8th Engineer BN; 501st Engineer CO; Berlin Brigade; 548th Engineer Battalion; USMA
specialty History Department; Housing, Department of Public Works
service dates 1969 1999