Fort McPherson's birthday holds lessons, inspiration
April 29, 2011
- Fort McPherson
- 126th birthday
- last birthday
Garrison Command Sergeant Major
Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem
On Wednesday Fort McPherson will celebrate its 126th, and last, birthday as an Army post. Like everyone's birthday, the day will give us a chance to reflect on Fort McPherson's past, celebrate its present and wonder about its future.
Since 1885, the post has had a role in all major conflicts. During the Spanish American war, it served as a recruit training installation and general hospital. It remained a base hospital during World War I, while also picking up the roles of an officers' training camp and an internment camp for German prisoners of war, holding 1,411 at its peak. World War II saw the post greatly expand its services, as it became a major reception and processing center, preparing and sending thousands of men into battle. After the war closed, the base reversed its operations, focusing on outprocessing and reassigning returning veterans.
In Vietnam the base supported operations, seeing its share of heroes - men like Staff Sgt. Harry Thompson of Atlanta, who was awarded the Silver Star posthumously for valor against enemy forces; Third Army Maj. David Starkey, who was awarded the distinguished flying cross aerial operations against hostile forces; and many others - deploy to fight the spread of communism. Likewise, the base has helped mold Soldiers throughout conflicts like the Gulf War and today's overseas contingency operations. Considering that the base was initially funded with a Congressional appropriation of $15,000, it's safe to say the Army got its money's worth.
The quality return on that investment was only possible by the priceless work of our Soldiers and Civilian employees throughout the years. Without their past hard work and dedication, today might be very different. In line with Sir Isaac Newton's quote, "If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants," one reason why we've been so successful today is because we stood on the great accomplishments and quality work of those before us.
While Fort McPherson is closing, it doesn't give us any leeway to let our shoulders sag. Though no military personnel will follow our footsteps here, the work we do will carry on to other places. Soldiers and Civilian employees alike must continue to give it their all to get us through these final days. Just as Fort McPherson's birthday will turn our eyes to past events and Soldiers, one day people will look back at our accomplishments today.
Knowing that we are working in a historic time, BRAC, will only increase the magnifying glass the future uses to view our works today. That is why it is important that we all work our hardest to put forth our best efforts. I am extremely proud of our Soldiers and Civilian employees who continue to do so despite the downturn. Many are working two or three jobs just to keep things running smoothly.
Everyday more and more people leave, further increasing the workload for those who remain behind. I see the effect of downsizing in my own formations. Just a year ago I had a battalion sized element of Soldiers augmented by three companies to help accomplish the mission.
Today those numbers have dwindled to company size. Still our mission is being accomplished. For that I am proud of everyone under my command. They say leaders are a reflection of the people they lead. In that regard, you have made me look spotless. You have done what is required and more, and for that I am thankful. Your work has also made me confident for our future.
Good followers make great leaders, and your work has given me confidence that the Army's future is in good hands. Just as I have always strived to build upon the foundations set forth by Fort McPherson's first garrison command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. R. S. Loftfield, and bring honor to the position, I know the future command sergeants major in our ranks will likewise do the same.
I see this daily when I view junior enlisted Soldiers performing NCO tasks and junior NCOs performing senior NCO tasks. Likewise, our young officers are stepping up, senior NCOs providing them quality guidance. You are all making me proud. You are a credit to the Army and its values.
There is also another group of people I'd like to thank for Fort McPherson's success that we will celebrate Wednesday: Families. Families are truly the backbone of our military. They provide the support, understanding, compassion and love our Soldiers need to see them through this difficult time. You are the rock upon which our Soldiers stand. I want out military Families to know the garrison's commitment to them is just as strong as it is to our Soldiers and Civilian employees. Rest assured, we will continue to provide you with quality services, always aware of the role you play in keeping our Soldiers strong. We are forever grateful.
Though a small gesture that can never truly repay the debt we owe all the Families, Soldiers and Civilian employees who are working so hard through this historic time, I hope the reminder of Fort McPherson's birthday brings some comfort. The future is rapidly coming upon us, with closure less than five months away, bringing lots of worries - understandably so - to many.
Let's let Fort McPherson's birthday allow us to cast those troubles aside for a day and reflect not on the uncertainty of where things are going, but rather the memories of the past. For it is in those memories of Fort McPherson's history where one can find a lesson that can help us in the future: no matter how tough things can get, how times change or what challenges may appear, what we do today will, like us, endure these tests.