Mr. Hirt, Ladies, Fellow Spearheaders:
I can't begin to express my pleasure in sharing with you the
44th reunion and 50th anniversary of this great division as its
division commander. I have served at every level in the division
from platoon to company, as brigade commander, and now as the
division commander. So when I tell you the Spearhead Division
has a special place in my heart, I really mean it. In fact, I
married my wife while assigned to the 3rd Armored Division over
25 years ago. She is also the daughter of a prior spearhead commanding
general. So Spearhead is really family to me.
For the rest of my speech, I want you to scoot back in your
chairs, close your eyes and relax, and let me take you back down
memory lane. I am going to share with you some of my and the
division's experiences during Operation Desert Storm. Many of
you will say to yourself and each other, "Has nothing changed
in the last 50 years?" I want to assure you that a lot has
changed during the past 50 years. The battlefield is much more
lethal now than it was, but if you will let your minds wander
with me for a few minutes, I think that you will find that many
of the things soldiers share in war haven't changed at all. When
the units were notified of their deployment to southwest Asia
[Saudi Arabia], fall had settled into Germany. The leaves had
changed color and most had fallen to the ground. The early mornings
were cool and your breath was clearly visible when you spoke.
When the official word came, it was no surprise. Just as you
knew in 1941 that some day you would deploy for World War II,
we knew in Germany that we would probably go to southwest Asia.
The actual notification on November 8, removed the speculation
and apprehension that we all felt so that now we could get on
with the task of preparing our units to deploy. One of the first
things we did was to brief everybody. You all have been there
before - a long line or a formation waiting for some general
to come by and tell you what you already knew.
Well, when I arrived at the theater to brief as many soldiers
and leaders as I could, I felt a strong sense of pride because
I had trained these soldiers and I knew how good they really
were, but I also knew there was some feeling of fear. As I gazed
at their faces, I wondered how many of them would not make it
back. They all looked so strangely young, their eyes anxiously
darting about, looking at each other and at me, searching for
reassurance, fear of the unknown clearly evident in their faces,
soldiers starting to smoke who never smoked before, and comments
of false bravado ... "Bring the Iraqis on" could be
heard among the meaningless background noise of the theater and
the parking lot. I remember that I told the soldiers everything
I knew about our deployment to southwest Asia.
One of the things I mentioned was the requirement for more
shots. By the way, the Army has not improved shots. They still
hurt, in fact I think they hurt worse now than they ever did.
I, too, stood in a line for my shots. I got four of them, one
was for some disease I'd never heard of. Then there was the endless
checks of ID cards and dog tags. Nameless faces saying, "Yes,
first sergeant," when he barked out at the morning's first
formation, "This morning gentlemen we are going to check
ID cards and dog tags."
There was the interest in wills and powers of attorney and
other legal stuff in case you didn't make it back. We also spent
a great deal of time briefing the soldier's family, trying to
keep them informed about what was going to happen to them after
their spouses left for the desert. It was sometimes difficult
to look at the face of a young wife or a three year old and wonder
if I would be able to bring their husband or father back home
to them. Unlike World War II, the majority of the soldiers families
stayed in Germany. We have never left families in a third country
before this. And then there were the long lines waiting to go
somewhere and hurrying up to wait some more. Sergeants walking
around with clip boards and checklist to make sure everything
was done to standard.
The loading of ships in the rain with the skeletal cranes
placing M-1 tanks on ship decks as gentle as a mother bird placing
a baby chick in her nest, and the precision with which it all
happened caused you to believe that divine intervention was somehow
making it all work. The day for the soldiers to deploy finally
arrived and memories of pictures from Life magazine came to life
as wives and husbands embraced one last time, each saying a silent
prayer for the others safety, and the awful empty feeling when
the door to the bus was finally shut. Our good-byes were said
at the Kasemes and then we travelled by bus to the airport. We
hadn't even taxied down the runway when the ache began in anticipation
of the many months of loneliness.
And then the strange new smell of the desert. Even in the
winter with mild to cold temperatures, the desert smelled hot.
And I'll never forget the awareness of ancient history. People
like the Hittites and Gentiles, places like the Wilderness where
Moses roamed, of trying to remember old maps in the back of the
Bible, places like Babylon ... the ancient city on the lower
Euphrates River in what is now central Iraq, and wondering if
this was the place where the Battle of Armageddon was to be fought.
And in the quiet moments, the silent promises you made to God
if he would only get you out of here alive.
You have all been there before. Each of you have shared these
same feelings and emotions that I just described. From the time
the division first saw combat at Villiers Fossard in France to
the culminating action at Dessau in Germany, you experienced
what all soldiers have experienced ... the hardships, the fears,
and the loneliness. I recently returned from a trip to the Normandy
Battlefield. I stood where you came ashore on Omaha Beach. I
want you to know that what we did during Operation Desert Storm
somewhat pales in comparison to your accomplishments in World
War II. I'm not taking anything away from today's soldiers but
what you did from Normandy to Paderborn and on to Dessau was
And as I stood at Omaha Beach, I was humbled by the difficulty
of the task that you faced. I want each of you to know that today's
Army, today's soldiers, are the benefactors of your outstanding
achievements during World War II. You set the standard for us
to achieve, you passed on to us the torch and the heritage of
this great division. And I am happy to report that we did not
let you down. And as the 3rd Armored Division stands down in
Germany and prepares for its move back to the United States to
another post, we too will pass on to the next generation of Spearheaders
the warrior spirit and soul that you began in the hedgerows of
France in 1944.
We will also pass on to the next generation of Spearhead soldiers
our inheritance from you and that is ... If you want to fight,
you came to the right place! I would be remiss if I didn't comment
on the lovely ladies here this evening. We all know that none
of us could have done it without you. You are the source of our
strength and the reason that we fight so hard ... and that is
so we can come back home to be with you. Wives are special.
I would like to take the liberty of asking the wives to stand
and be recognized with a big round of applause from their spearhead
soldier. I would like to say in closing that as I took my soldiers
down the street of Washington and New York during the parades,
pride and patriotism has returned to this great nation. All of
our soldiers - active, reserves, and veterans of all wars should
hold their heads high and be proud that they have served the
greatest nation in the world to ensure peace, freedom, and democracy.
This has been a great evening and a great two days. I thank
you for letting us share this special time with you. Have a safe
journey home. Spearhead!