FORT BLISS, Texas (May 24, 2011) " The last U.S. Army division to leave Germany, the 1st Armored Division, unfurled its colors Monday at Fort Bliss.

Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, the senior commander at Bliss, assumed command of the 1st Armored Division during a ceremony at Noel Field. First AD outgoing commander, Maj. Gen. Terry A. Wolff, talked about how the colors were cased 11 days ago in a moving ceremony at Wiesbaden Army Airfield, where the unit saluted the departure of the final American Army division headquarters.

“That ceremony appropriately highlighted 40 years of rich history,” said Wolff. “That history captured our service as part of NATO during the Cold War, to our Bosnia and Kosovo experiences to Operation Iraqi Freedom " including the most recent service of the brigade combat teams and the division headquarters that recently returned. Today marks the beginning of the next chapter of the division’s history.”

First Armored Division established its roots in Europe during World War II. It was the first American armored division to engage in that conflict during Operation Torch in North Africa, and went on to the invasion of Sicily and then Italy. It participated in the liberation of Rome on June 4, 1944.

Gen. James D. Thurman, the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, officially welcomed the 1st Armored Division back to the states. Thurman said it was a true honor to help pass the “Old Ironsides” colors.

“Today is a great day to be a Soldier and particularly an `Iron Soldier,'' said Thurman. "It is an honor to be standing on this parade field with the greatest asset in the United States Army " its Soldiers " the finest in the world. This is a very special day for Fort Bliss, the 1st Armored Division and two amazing command teams.”

Pittard said it was an honor for him to assume command of the division.

“Wow! Thank God for making this happen " taking command of America’s only armored division in my hometown of El Paso " it doesn’t get any better than this!” said Pittard.” “Take a look at the sharpest Soldiers in the United States Army " the 1st Armored Division. This is certainly a special day " because this is one of the few times you will see every element of the 1st Armored Division together in one formation.”

The fighting division shares the nickname, “Old Ironsides,” with the oldest commissioned Navy warship that was never defeated in battle " the USS Constitution. During the ceremony a three-member delegation of Sailors dressed in period uniforms and assigned to the ship were led by Navy Cdr. Timothy Cooper, who presented Pittard the flag that was flown on board the USS Constitution.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Miles Trevor, assigned to the USS Constitution, said the presentation was a gesture of camaraderie between the 1st Armored “Old Ironsides” and the Navy.

“I was honored to come here and see a change-of-command of a different branch other than the Navy’s " it’s such a different experience " I’m really excited to be here,” said Trevor.

In closing, El Paso mayor John Cook presented an official city proclamation to Pittard in recognition and celebration of the arrival of the 1st Armored Division to El Paso, Texas, and also proclaimed May 24 as First Armored Division day.

(Lt. Col. Deanna Bague serves with Fort Bliss Public Affairs.)

Page last updated Tue May 24th, 2011 at 00:00