Six years after deactivating, one of the Army's most decorated units has returned to Fort Riley.
A reactivation ceremony Oct. 9 on Custer Hill made it official that the 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor Regiment, will now be part of the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. Previously it had served under the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, at Fort Riley in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The battalion has a rich heritage and was the only combat-ready tank battalion by the time of the attacks on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, said the commander of 2nd ABCT, 1st Inf. Div.
"As we uncase the colors and welcome the 'Thunderbolts' back to the Big Red One, it is important to note that this battalion, this regiment, has been the foundation on which we have built our finest armored combat units and some of our finest leaders have come of age," said Col. Miles Brown. "As these colors fly, we can feel confident and strong, because (this is) the same tank battalion that led the way on Utah Beach, through the Battle of the Bulge, north of the 38th parallel in Korea, liberated Kuwait and spearheaded into Iraq."
The battalion will become the third combined arms battalion within the "Dagger" Brigade, joining 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, and 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment. It is currently building combat power to reach full strength ahead of the brigade's upcoming decisive action rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.
Lt. Col. Donald Stewart, the battalion commander, said in his remarks at the reactivation ceremony that the strength of a unit can be seen it the people it's touched over the years.
"I've always said that what makes a unit great are the people associated with it and the outpouring of support from Thunderbolt veterans has certainly shown this to be true," he said.
Dozens of veterans who served with the unit during its deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom were in attendance at the ceremony, and some veterans of the unit still serve, including Maj. Chris Dempsey, executive officer of 2nd ABCT, 1st Inf. Div.
"It's emotional and an overwhelming experience to see these colors that you went to war with, that you cut your teeth with, to see people that you grew up with and matured with, it's a surreal experience and something that I wouldn't have missed for the world," said Staff Sgt. (ret.) Joe Comfort, who deployed with the battalion in 2003 and 2005. "It's a proud day for this very proud unit. I have absolutely no doubt that they will be the class act of Fort Riley and it's great to see them back again."
Stewart charged his Soldiers with building on that legacy to make their own mark in the unit's newest chapter.
"Continue to be brave, responsible and on point," he said. "We have a lot to look forward to in our new history."