A legacy of courage, strength honored at Fort Campbell
May 23, 2014
- "The 101st Airborne Division has been one of the greatest parts of my life," he said. "It's an honor just to be here." -- Mike Yancy, Vietnam Veteran and former 101st Airborne Division Soldier
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- The sun may have been bright this morning, but it could not shine brighter than the pride of the 101st Airborne Division as Soldiers stood together on the Division Parade Field to close out this year's Week of the Eagles celebration.
The theme of the 2014 observance was "Remembering the 101st in Vietnam: Building on the legacy of courage and strength," and gathered at the parade field were representatives of the division's history looking upon the Soldiers that are the division's present and future -- building on that legacy created by the Veterans in attendance.
This ceremony has marked the closing of Week of the Eagles for more than 40 years, but the tradition is much older than the Army itself. Originating in medieval times, its purpose is to allow commanders to inspect troops, present awards, and issue information, according to TC 3-21.5, Chapter 11. Several thousand troops marched to their positions on the field to continue this custom that has been handed down through the centuries by the warriors that came before them; it is the legacy of the Soldier. In continuing with tradition, the formal sound off beginning the ceremony was provided by the 101st Airborne Division Band led by Sgt. 1st Class John Ellis.
This celebration also marks the last Week of the Eagles observance under the command of Maj. Gen. James C. McConville. The 44th "Eagle Six" will leave as the longest serving commander in the division's 72-year history and pass the title to a new commander in June.
Vietnam Veteran Mike Yancy, who served in the 101st in 1967 and 1968, was on hand as one of the distinguished visitors. "The 101st Airborne Division has been one of the greatest parts of my life," he said. "It's an honor just to be here."
Visitors were also treated to a parachute jump by the 101st Parachute Demonstration Team, as they received an explanation of the mission of the 101st Airborne Division. Sgt. Don Fitz of the 716th Military Police Battalion and Staff Sgt. Edward Sears landed expertly on the field to the sound of applause from the crowd.
The history of the 101st was highlighted as McConville and Command Sgt. Maj. Alonzo J. Smith, along with a group of special guests, mounted two humvees to begin the inspection of the gathered troops standing proud and ready. Once the inspection was complete, the colors from each battalion marched and centered upon the Nation's colors to begin the presentation of awards.
Charles R. Gant, who was one of the Vietnam Veterans participating in the pass-in-review ceremony, representing the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment "Strike Force," was there to honor all Soldiers of the 101st past and present. "I will always be a Strike Force Soldier and I will always be a Screaming Eagle."
The Commander's Cup, presented for excellence in the events throughout the Week of Eagles, was presented to 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," who scored 1,725 points during the week's events.
Also presented with awards were: NCO of the year Sgt. Erin Squires of the 526th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Soldier of the year Spc. Jannise Rodriguez of the 626th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team and post Soldier of the year Spc. Nicole Faure from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 86th Combat Support Hospital.
Upon the closing of the awards presentation, the colors returned to their respective units as they prepared for the traditional pass in review. Led by their command teams, each unit marched past the post command and spectators; demonstrating the discipline and precision that the 101st Airborne Division is known for. Followed by a procession of vehicles from armored personnel carriers to Chinooks, the Soldiers left the parade field to continue the legacy of courage and strength that was established by those that came before them.