RIA celebrates 150th anniversary with Quad Cities' residents
July 11, 2012
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Despite a heat index rising to 110-plus degrees, Quad Cities residents came out and celebrated the 150th anniversary of Rock Island Arsenal.
The Quad Cities consist of Moline, East Moline, and Rock Island on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, along with Davenport and Bettendorf on the Iowa side of the great river that physically separates much of the United States.
Activities officially kicked off at 10 a.m. with a parade that made its way down the island's main street, Rodman Avenue. Then, the U.S. Army's Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, descended upon RIA's Memorial Field, displaying their pinpoint landing skills.
Afterward, buses took attendees to the Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, where they were given a tour to highlight some of the factory's major contributions to the operations that took place in Iraq, and still in Afghanistan.
Even country radio station WLLR, 103.7 FM, was on hand with one of its personalities, Pat Leuck, who interviewed many of RIA's senior leaders and others who represented the major commands on the island. Interviews were conducted from 9:15 a.m. to 11:50 a.m., inviting Quad City residents to partake in the day's festive activities.
The highlight of this year's celebration were the two performances by the Golden Knights.
For their first jump marking the celebration's opening ceremony, the team performed their "Full Show" featuring a mid-air baton pass, the "Cutaway" maneuver in which a jumper simulates a parachute failure, the "Diamond Track" which demonstrates how much lateral movement can be achieved in freefall, and the "Diamond Formation" in which four jumpers fly inches apart like high performance aircraft.
"We really enjoyed our time in the Quad Cities," said Staff Sgt. Chris Clark, a parachutist. "We usually jump at air shows or into stadiums, so this was quite a change of pace for us."
Following the show, the baton used in the performance was presented to Maj. Gen. Patricia E. McQuistion, commanding general of Army Sustainment Command, as she took the stage to give opening remarks. The baton was later placed in a time capsule with other mementos marking Rock Island Arsenal's first 150 years.
The team performed a "Mass Exit" show featuring a number of maneuvers as part of the day's closing ceremony. The highlight of their closing show was a tandem jump featuring McQuistion who rode with tandem instructor Sgt. 1st Class Noah Watts, who has more than 500 tandem jumps and more than 3,200 jumps total.
McQuistion's father, Mac McQuistion, her husband, Leif Johnson, and her sister, Kathy Fries were present and looked skyward as ASC's commanding general exited the plane with the Army's Golden Knights.
Upon landing, McQuistion looked exhilarated and thanked the Golden Knights for their role in the jump.
Hundreds of people lined Memorial Field to see the Golden Knights performances.
"We had to see their [Golden Knights] final performance; we could see them from our house this morning so we just had to come to the Arsenal to see them in person," said a family from Rock Island.
The day before, Bailey Dietz, reporter for KWQC-TV, channel 6, also participated in a tandem jump late Friday afternoon as part of a rehearsal jump for the Golden Knights.
Media were on the Golden Knights airplane for that jump, and there were media awaiting her landing and the other parachuters into Memorial Field's baseball diamond. Prior to the jump, media interviewed senior leaders at the RIA and then interviewed the Golden Knights upon landing.
"We were glad to be a part of the Arsenal's 150th anniversary celebration," Clark said. "I like the architecture at the Arsenal and was glad we could learn a little bit about its history. Rock Island Arsenal is unlike any place we have ever visited, and given the opportunity, we would love to come back here again."
Other events of the anniversary day included performances by The Spirit of the USO band, a band that played a variety of cover song hits throughout the decades. Stunning shows were given by Circurious, which blended theatrical movements, magic, and music to produce a very eye-catching performance.
Food and ice-chilled drinks were available from a variety of vendors to keep everyone from overheating.
Even food vendor Terri Sinde was hosing down passersby who were most grateful in their attempt to stay cool. Sinde normally works at the RIA daycare center.
Asked how business was going, cook James Deangelis of Sheridan's Islands Food Service, "It's been good."
He said most people were ordering barbecue pork and ribs. Water, he said, was being sold more than soda because of the hot weather. The busiest time was between noon and 1 p.m., Deangelis said.
Later in the afternoon, McQuistion presented 48 recognition awards to people representing all commands on the installation for their role in the planning of the anniversary celebration.
Other activities included exhibits at the Arsenal Museum, a classic car show, static displays of military equipment, a Blackhawk Puck Challenge, a GM Ride and Drive, Discovery Kids' Tent, and a Civil War encampment.
Also in attendance were a local the Army recruiting office.
"Overall it was a good event. We got to meet with a lot of people and made a couple of appointments," said Army Recruiter Sgt. 1st Class Roy Campbell, station commander of the Davenport Recruiting Office.
"We were glad to be a part of the Arsenal's 150th Anniversary Celebration. Since we represent the Quad Cities area, we are trying to work with Army Sustainment Command and First Army as much as we can. We might have different missions, but we all are part of the Army team."
As part of the celebration, a time capsule was created to preserve the day for those who will be celebrating the 175th anniversary in 2037. Placed in it was a letter from McQuistion that stated:
To those of you who now celebrate the 175th anniversary of the establishment of Rock Island Arsenal, I send greetings from all of us who celebrated the Arsenal's 150th anniversary two and half decades earlier.
We marked the sesquicentennial of Rock Island Arsenal with a huge celebration that was open to the public and intended to give the community a look at the vital work performed at this installation. While it is impossible for us to predict what your 175th anniversary celebration will be like, we hope that you, like us, take this opportunity to open the gates and invite the community to join you in marking this important milestone in the history of the Arsenal.
From the very beginning, Rock Island Arsenal has been closely tied to the surrounding community, a bi-state area currently and commonly referred to as the Quad Cities. Those ties were stronger than ever at the time of our 150th anniversary, and we hope that they have been further strengthened in the 25 years that have passed since.
At the time this letter was written, Rock Island Arsenal carried out global missions that involved us in all our nation's military operations and deployments. Our support truly made a difference to the brave young men and women who stood on the front lines of freedom, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, in Korea and Japan, across the African continent, and with our long-standing European allies.
There is no way of knowing exactly what sorts of missions you now perform at Rock Island Arsenal, nor can we forecast what new threats to freedom may have emerged, or how our nation will choose to employ its military might in 2037. But we can be confident that the people of the Arsenal will always stand strong in support of those brave Americans who fight our nation's battles. That hasn't changed since 1862, and it never will.
Good luck and Godspeed to you all, and thank you for your additions to the rich history and traditions of this unique installation in the nation's heartland. As you lead the Arsenal forward into a future, we ask only that you take a moment to look back and remember those who came before you, just as we have paused to remember the people who helped make Rock Island Arsenal a national treasure.
On July 9, local media were sent a letter from McQuistion thanking everyone for their support:
"On behalf of the entire Rock Island Arsenal community, a tremendous and heartfelt thanks to the entire Quad-Cities for your support and participation in our 150th anniversary celebration on July 7! For those who were able to be with us, you helped make this a special and memorable day that highlighted both the Arsenal's important history and the critical missions currently carried out at this unique installation in America's heartland.
"Above all, thank you to the leaders and citizens of the Quad-Cities for the support you've provided for the Arsenal in the past, and continue to provide today. As we've learned in this sesquicentennial year, Rock Island Arsenal and the Quad-Cities community grew up together and built strong bonds over the years. We are proud of the part we've played in the development of this wonderful community, and we are grateful for all the community has done to keep us strong.
"By inviting the community to celebrate with us on July 7, we returned the hospitality and friendship that you have always shown us. I hope that you enjoyed the event, and that you will visit us again soon. We are your military --Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard -- and we are proud to serve at Rock Island Arsenal!"