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First Army uncases colors at Rock Island Arsenal

July 21, 2011

By Sgt. Maj. Warren Byrd

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. - Barely skipping a beat in its comprehensive and instrumental mission to support Reserve Component forces, First Army officially completed a long but seamless transition to its new location in an uncasing of unit colors ceremony Thursday outside its headquarters building here.

First Army relocated to RIA from its previous headquarters at Fort Gillem, Ga., under the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment authorization. The unfurling of organizational colors is the Army’s traditional way of symbolizing the arrival and official beginning of a unit’s mission at a new location.

Thursday’s ceremony marked the culmination of an almost two-year process that began when a handful of First Army personnel began to gradually trickle in before the bulk of the unit arrived in early June.

“Our colors are now prominently displayed in front of First Army headquarters,” said Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek, First Army commanding general in remarks Thursday. “This symbolic posting declares that First Army has completed its relocation and is formally ‘open for business’ on the Arsenal. It also means we are ready to ‘pump up the volume’ of activities across the Quad Cities.

“To be clear,” Bednarek continued, “our business is to continue our mission to mobilize, train, deploy and demobilize our Army’s National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers in support of worldwide contingency operations. Our mission is tough and demanding, and the burden it places on the soldiers assigned to First Army is immense.”

Bednarek said a vital part of First Army’s mission of supporting the Reserve Component is to lessen the burden of mobilization and demobilization on soldiers and their families.

“The goal is to position us to conduct business more efficiently, effectively and with less hardship on the soldiers and families caused by long separations,” Bednarek said. “It is all part of ensuring our Army is better postured for both the challenges and the unknowns of our exciting future.”

First Army headquarters is comprised of more than 150 active duty, Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers and almost 175 Department of the Army civilians and contractors. It serves as the Forces Command executive agent for providing training support to Reserve Component forces. Its mission is to mobilize, train, validate, deploy and demobilize Reserve Component units and soldiers in support of contingency operations around the world.

Since 9/11, First Army has mobilized, trained, deployed and redeployed more than 1.5 million soldiers, sailors and airmen at six mobilization training centers spread throughout the United States. That includes Iowa’s own “Red Bulls,” the 2nd Brigade, 34th Division, which is demobilizing now at Fort McCoy, Wis.

Bednarek said that troops depend on and appreciate the support they receive from members of communities across the country, like those in the Quad City area.

“I extend my grateful appreciation, on behalf of all of us across First Army, for your support of our relocation to the Arsenal, and our continuing mission to train our nation’s Reserve Component formations that answer our nation’s call to service.”

More than 100 Quad City business leaders, government representatives and citizens joined First Army in officially opening its doors for business at the ceremony.

Bednarek said the gracious welcome by members of the Quad City community eased the unit’s transition to RIA.

“To our neighbors beyond the Arsenal in the surrounding communities, I am humbled and overwhelmed with your kindness, outpouring of support and willingness to assist in our transition. It has been simply masterful,” Bednarek said. “It’s a wonderful feeling for a soldier and his or her family to move to a new duty location halfway across the country, where one immediately feels welcome and at ease with new-found friends, co-workers and those key areas of emphasis in finding a place to live, the right schools for kids, churches for worship and warm neighbors with a ready smile and a plate of healthy cookies.

“Your hospitality reflects the best of the Midwestern spirit and ethos,” Bednarek said. “I look forward to building and sustaining partnerships with you all.”

Lt. Gen Howard B. Bromberg, acting commanding general, Forces Command, attended the event, along with local elected and appointed officials. Among the attendees were Bettendorf Mayor Michael Freemire, Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, Rock Island Mayor Dennis Pauley, East Moline Mayor John Thodos as well as other local and state political representatives.

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