FORT GORDON, Ga. (April 25, 2014) -- Change is inevitable in the military, and for one group of veterans, it is what brought them back together.
Fourteen service members from Bravo Company, 26th Signal Battalion, gathered for a reunion here, April 25. The unit was activated Aug. 15, 1961, in Germany, and inactivated Oct. 15, 1991.
Most of the veterans had not been back to Fort Gordon since graduating Advanced Individual Training more than 40 years ago. Some of them went on to have full careers, but most served a few years then left the military.
Returning to where they learned their military trade was an opportunity to see how much changed, to gain a sense of significance in their roles as signal Soldiers, and to rekindle friendships.
The group started their day at the Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon for an in-brief, toured the Signal museum, and looked at modern equipment in Brandt Hall. Then the group bussed to Forward Operating Base Ready, a training site at Fort Gordon, for a firsthand look at signal officers training on the equipment. It was an eye opening experience for Raymond Sprague, Jr., who traveled from Wichita, Kansas, to participate.
"It was jaw-dropping," Sprague said of the tactical operations center. "So much has changed. The fact that everybody is just so much better informed … We thought we were better informed."
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Bruce Harris, former commander of B Co., 26th Signal Bn., said he remembered borrowing a typewriter to create morning reports -- a major contrast to the digital reports used today.
"We didn't have any automation, we didn't have satellites, and we didn't have digital communications," Harris said. "The things they do are still the same, but the technologies they have changed drastically."
The veterans' reactions to the changes were exactly what Capt. Kenneth DeMars hoped to see. DeMars, CCOE chief of operations, said his vision was to bring them up to speed with how much the Army has changed and help establish a renewed sense of importance.
"They only knew their small piece of the puzzle," DeMars said. "With the developments in technology, the role of the signal Soldier now is crucial."
As technology evolved, so did the structure of the Signal Corps. Today, signal Soldiers are inducted into the Signal Corps Regiment upon completion of AIT. Since 26th Signal Bn. existed at a time when the Signal Regiment did not, members of the battalion were never inducted. That changed thanks to the planning and generosity of the signal community.
Members of the reunion group ended their day with a surprise regimental induction.
Ceremony at Alexander Hall. Each veteran received a regimental crest, certificate of honorary membership into the Signal Regiment, a year membership to the Signal Corps Regimental Association and a Signal Corps Regimental Association coin. They also had an opportunity to meet with Maj. Gen. LaWarren V. Patterson, chief of the Signal Corps. It was the "icing on the cake" for Sprague and his comrades.
"I'm completely overwhelmed," Sprague said. "I don't know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both."
Harris echoed similar sentiments.
"The post did a marvelous job at making them feel welcome," he said. "Everything about this reunion was outstanding."