A rich heritage: Battalion reflects on past ahead of inactivation
March 19, 2010
- 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, traces history back more than two centuries
- Unit was responsible for BOLC II course at Fort Benning
- With mission gone, 1-11 will be inactivated - but could make a comeback someday
FORT BENNING, Ga. - The 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, can trace its heritage back more than two centuries - when the United States was a burgeoning power on the world stage and Soldiers still wielded sharp bayonets.
But in the past couple of decades, the regiment became something of a springboard for future Army generals. Two of Fort Benning's past three commanders, MG Michael Ferriter and MG(R) Walter Wojdakowski, each led the 11th Infantry Regiment.
The 1st Battalion is facing inactivation after the Army eliminated its mission of conducting the six-week Basic Officer Leader Course II. A ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at Stilwell Field on Main Post. In case of inclement weather, the event will take place in the Benning Conference Center's Regimental Room.
The unit was designated as 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry, and assigned to "The School Brigade" at Fort Benning's U.S. Army Infantry School in August 1987. About four years later, the School Brigade was reflagged as the 11th Infantry Regiment.
The battalion supported 27 directorates within USAIS and the U.S. Army Infantry Center, providing command and administrative support. At various times since the early 1990s, it also was responsible for the Infantry Captains Career Course, the International Student Detachment, the Fort Benning Replacement Company and 283rd Army band.
Wojdakowski served as 11th Infantry Regiment commander from July 1993 to July 1995. He said the battalion and regiment's mission focus has evolved over the years.
"The 1/11th at that time was the headquarters of the Infantry School commandant," he said. "During this time, they were instrumental in upgrading all facilities and the sponsorship and training of our international students. The unit also spearheaded the training of spouses for our career course captains."
The battalion's inactivation is a significant moment in the history of Fort Benning and the Army, Wojdakowski said.
"As when any unit inactivates, it signifies a big change and we should honor all Soldiers and leaders who served honorably in this unit throughout its history," he said.
Ferriter, now the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning commanding general, was commander of the 11th Infantry Regiment from 1999 to 2001.
The 11th Infantry originally formed in July 1798 and saw its first action during the War of 1812. The battalion fought in numerous battles during the Civil War. In World War II, the unit landed at Normandy in July 1944 and fought its way across France as part of GEN George Patton's famous 3rd Army.
In 1968, the battalion deployed to Vietnam and operated in Cam Lo, Dong Ha, Gang Tri and Khe Sanh. From there, it returned to Fort Carson, Colo., and served as part of the 4th Infantry Division until January 1984.
Today, the 11th Infantry Regiment is known as the 199th Infantry Brigade.
Between January 2006 and last December, about 15,200 newly commissioned second lieutenants attended BOLC II at Fort Benning. The battalion consisted of five companies and trained 4,800 lieutenants annually.
Since forming 212 years ago, the battalion has cased its colors and been reactivated five times.
LTC David Bottcher, the 1st Battalion commander, said the unit could resurface again someday in another role for the Army.
"1-11 will be inactivated or 'moth-balled,' until a time that there is a need for another battalion-size command and control element, possibly for a MCoE Special Troops Battalion sometime in the future," he said.
Editor's note: This is the second article in a three-part series about the inactivation of 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment.