FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- The National Training Center and Fort Irwin celebrated the Army's 239th birthday on June 11, just a few days before training of a rotational brigade begins and ahead of the Army birthday June 14.

The theme for this year's celebration is "America's Army: Our Profession." The Army Profession -- where military expertise, honorable service, esprit de corps, and stewardship are built on a foundation of trust -- strengthens the force through periods of transition, reinforces identity, and provides the critical foundation for the force.

Commander of the NTC, Maj. Gen. Ted Martin, spoke at a ceremony at one of two dining facilities here and said that before "we had a country, we needed an Army."

"The only reason we have a country is because we have an Army," Martin said. "That Army started taking care of business in 1775 and hasn't stopped in 239 years. I'm proud that I've been a part of that for the last 31 years."

Martin expressed that the NTC would ultimately celebrate the Army's birthday by "taking a brigade combat team out in the wilderness and training them hard" (training for 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division begins later his week).

The traditional cutting of a cake was performed by Martin and NTC Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Travers, along with the youngest and oldest Soldier on the installation. The youngest, Pvt. Austin Heiser serves with 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, and the oldest, Col. Eric Sabety, serves with United States Army Medical Department Activity here. The cake cutting was flanked by Soldiers wearing period uniforms, going back to the Continental Army of the Revolutionary War.

At the other dining facility, United States Army Garrison at Fort Irwin commander Col. Jon Braga and Sgt. Maj. Danny Knell cut the traditional cake with a ceremonial sword. Representing a junior and senior Soldier were: Pfc. Robert Spataro and Lt. Col. Larry Sheetz.

At both dining facilities, Soldiers and staff decorated the dining areas and created artwork out of pastries and other deserts. Cakes replicated Fort Irwin's Painted Rocks and a battle field. Ice sculptures gleamed on tables. Soldiers, Families and civilians filled the facilities and enjoyed the food and festive ambiance.