WIESBADEN, Germany - When Maj. Gen. George W. Casey Jr. passed command of the 1st Armored Division to Maj. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez in July 2001, it was on a brand new parade field on Wiesbaden Army Airfield, Germany, after the division's relocation from Bad Kreuznach.

A decade later that field is long gone to make way for the incoming U.S. Army Europe Command and Battle Center, as 1st Armored Division, or AD, moves on to Fort Bliss, Texas.

"I'm feeling both honored and melancholic to be speaking at this historic color casing today," said Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, USAREUR's senior leader and a former 1st AD commander. "Like others, I have so many memories associated with this division and this place and the 40 years of relations between the German people and our Soldiers wearing the Old Ironsides patch."

German and American leaders gathered in a hangar on the airfield May 13, 2011, to mark the casing of the division's colors in anticipation of the move to Texas.

The unit was the first U.S. Army armored division to see battle during World War II. 1st AD members have had a long relationship with the people of Europe. After fighting their way from Algeria into Italy, the division eventually settled in Schwabisch Gmuend after the war, pulling occupation duty.

After a period of inactivation starting in 1946 and being reactivated in Fort Hood, Texas, five years later, 1st AD was ordered to return to Germany in 1971 to Ansbach.

Moves to Bad Kreuznach in 1992 and eventually Wiesbaden in 2001 were accompanied by decades of major support operations including service during Operations Deserts Shield and Storm in Kuwait, in the Balkans - leading the way across the Sava River into Bosnia in 1995, peacekeeping in Kosovo and three deployments to Iraq as part of Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.

Alluding to the division's namesake, the U.S.S. Constitution, known to sailors as Old Ironsides, Hertling said 1st AD's Soldiers have always embodied that comparison - "fighting spirit, durability, daring. Those have certainly been the descriptors of this division."

"As we stand here today, to case the division colors, say farewell to friends, and close another chapter in the history of Old Ironsides, one must ask, what has made the 1st Armored Division such an adaptable and durable force'The answer is simple - it's the Soldiers, the leaders, the families, the terrific support received by active German friends in government and in the neighboring towns," he said. "It's a result of partnership and sacrifice - of shared laughter and tears."

Calling it an honor to be called an Iron Soldier, Hertling said a new museum at Fort Bliss "will remind every Soldier and family member of the past - and the future - of this division. And there are also about 15,000 Soldiers at Fort Bliss wearing the Old Ironsides patch, who will be a living reminder of Old Ironsides' legacy.

"But what will be missing is the friendship shared with our German neighbors," Hertling added.

"It's my honor and duty as the minister president of Hessen to thank you for your service," said Hessen Minister President Volker Bouffier, praising the longstanding friendship between the United States military and citizens of Germany following World War II. "You brought us freedom."

"We have become friends, and I am confident this friendship will last beyond this day and for many years to come," added Wiesbaden Lord Mayor Helmut Mueller.

Maj. Gen. Terry A. Wolff, 1st AD's commander and deputy USAREUR commander, traced the history of the division, praising its "band of brothers" and the "special relationship with Hessen and the city of Wiesbaden.

"Our German friends have opened their homes and hearts to us," Wolff said.

The 1st AD colors will be uncased at Fort Bliss on May 24, during a division change of command ceremony.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16