Army Reserve memorializes Soldier with center dedication
September 15, 2009
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (Sept. 15, 2009) -- The Army honored a fallen warrior at a dedication ceremony for the Capt. John E. Smathers U.S. Army Reserve Center Saturday.
A standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 attended the ceremony. Turhan E. Robinson, civilian aide to the secretary of the Army; Maj. Gen. David N. Blackledge, Army assistant deputy chief of staff for mobilization and reserve affairs; Brig. Gen. Dana Chipman, commander of the Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School; Brig. Gen. James D. Owens, commanding general of the 352nd Civil Affairs Command; and Luanne Tano, Smathers' sister, spoke to the audience of Soldiers, civilians and retirees.
"When you look upon this building, look at it as more than just mere glass, brick and mortar," Owens said. "It is alive with men and women perfecting their skills in critical specialties to the Army and the nation. [It is] a vital resource where Soldiers work to excel in their war fighting, develop the leadership skills necessary to sustain current operations and plan for future contingencies whenever and wherever they may arise."
Smathers, a civil affairs officer with the 352nd Civil Affairs Command, died Feb. 4, 2006 at age 47. He was assigned to the 352nd in January 2003 and deployed to Iraq with the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion the following March. During a one-year tour, he served as a civil affairs officer with the battalion and as the judge advocate officer for the 352nd.
While deployed, Smathers helped stop a bank robbery and assisted in recovering stolen Iraqi artwork. He survived an ambush and a high-speed automobile crash during the recovery. He was awarded two Purple Heart medals, four Bronze Star medals and an Army Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq. His wounds required seven surgeries after his return from that country and he was reassigned to the 352nd CACOM.
"If John were speaking today, I know he would thank the U.S. Army Reserve, the 352nd Civil Affairs Command, and the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion for the opportunity to serve," Tano said. "John loved life, his family, his military family and his life in service to our country. He deeply respected and fiercely protected the right of every individual from any part of the world to live in freedom. This was the cornerstone of his life."
"John was an inspiration to all who knew him in life and he continues to be an inspiration for me today," said Blackledge, who commanded the 352nd CACOM during Smathers' deployment and was injured and medically evacuated with him after an ambush near Iskandariyah, Iraq, in 2004.
"And with the dedication of this Army Reserve center in his name, he will serve as an inspiration for generations of Soldiers in the years to come."
Housing 18 units, the facility is the second-largest reserve center under the 99th Regional Support Command, which has responsibility for Reserve units in 13 states along the eastern seaboard stretching from southern Virginia to the northern tip of Maine.
The Army Reserve completed construction of the center in August 2006 and occupied it the following January. The 1,800-member center consists of four buildings on 37 acres and includes a training center, maintenance facility, heated storage area and an unheated storage area. There is an additional Deployable Medical System used by 48th Combat Support Hospital.
(Staff Sgt. Jacob Boyer serves with the 352nd Civil Affairs Command Public Affairs.)