By Yvette Smith, Courier staff May 5, 2014
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, furled and cased its colors April 25 during its inactivation ceremony. As one of 10 brigades Army wide, chosen to inactive as part of the BCT 2020 model, great care has been taken to preserve its history and honors through the safeguarding and conservation of its historical property, artifacts and archives.
"The 4th Brigade Combat Team is aligned with the 506th Infantry Regiment, so our history goes all the way back to 1942," said Maj. Kamil Sztalkoper, 4th BCT public affairs officer.
"There are more than 100 historical artifacts related to the 506th. Thankfully, we have a much better historical item accountability process than we have had in the past, to help preserve the history, the legacy and the lineage of not only the 506th, but the entire brigade."
When the brigade inactivates, 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion of the 506th Infantry Regiment, will realign under 1st and 3rd Brigade Combat Teams of the 101st Airborne Division respectively, maintaining the "Currahee" legacy and thereby transferring with their corresponding historical artifacts.
The remaining four battalions, 801st Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment and 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, will inactivate and have been the primary focus in the mission of preserving history.
"When a unit inactivates, it is a long process," said John E. Foley, the Don F. Pratt Museum's collections manager. "Along with the emotional toll of the unit leaving the service, you have units like the 801st Maintenance Battalion, the oldest maintenance unit in our division's history, who has substantial amounts of historical property that has amassed through the years."
Sztalkoper, along with Foley, began their efforts to safeguard the brigade's legacy in November, after contacting the U.S. Army Center of Military History, located at Fort McNair, D.C.
The center, responsible for the appropriate use of history throughout the Army, requested an in-depth unit historical artifact inventory list for each inactivating unit.
"At first, it's just a big paperwork trail," said Sztalkoper. "We took a photo of every piece of historical item here. The items ranged from photos, artifacts, memorabilia, unit award citations, to colors and streamer sets. Then we comprised a list, along with descriptive paragraphs for each item that we sent to the Center of Military History."
From there, CMH determined the items of historical value and provided Sztalkoper with an updated list of items that needed to be shipped to the center for further review.
"From there we package and ship each item, which we are still in the process of doing," said Sztalkoper. "After the center receives the item, they review it and further decide if the item has historical value. If it does, they catalog it and put it on the inventory list and maybe place it on display somewhere. If not, it gets disposed of or sent back."
Many of the items not retained by CMH will be placed on display at Pratt Museum or kept in its warehouse. Additionally, two hard drives of archive photos were turned in to the museum as well.
Although a lengthy and tedious process, the safeguarding process is vital to a unit, as it not only helps preserve unit history, it also enables the return of the items to the unit if reactivated.
"As we have seen throughout our history with units like the 101st, units are activated, inactivated and then reactivated many times," said Foley. "By maintaining a unit's historical property, not only is their history preserved, if the unit reactivates in the future, they can painlessly and seamlessly install the items back in their display cases - they have their history back."
"In order to foster unit esprit-de-corps and unit pride, you need to be able to tell the Soldier the story of the unit," said Foley. "It is vital that we know who we are, what we have done and where we have been. These historical properties, artifacts and archives all tell our story."