KNIGHTDALE, N.C. - "I've been in the Army 34 years and this is my first time in the delivery room," said Maj. Gen. Tracy A. Thompson, commanding general, 412th Theater Engineer Command.
Thompson was speaking of the activation ceremony of the U.S. Army Reserve's newest unit, the 363rd Engineer Battalion in Knightdale, North Carolina, Dec. 5.
Thompson compared the activation to the birth of a newborn.
"I call it a birth because it is analogous to that in many ways: a lot of people prepared for it for a long time and eagerly anticipated its arrival. There is a new, vigorous entity here and there wasn't just a while ago," he said. "Right when it got here there were a lot of people already wanting to care for it and work hard to ensure that it thrives and is successful, but that's probably where the similarity ends."
"Unlike a newborn child, of which we expect very little, our new battalion headquarters comes out of the delivery room with not only grown-up responsibilities, but with parental responsibilities and expectations - very high expectation at that," Thompson added.
The 363rd Eng. Bn. is a subordinate unit of the 411th Engineer Brigade, which falls under the 412th Theater Engineer Command. The battalion takes command and control of five companies.
While an activation may seem to be of little importance, they are uncommon within the Army Reserve.
"You just witnessed a pretty rare thing today," said Thompson. "That flag, that has just been uncased today, it's first day unleashed, that's something you are unlikely to see again in your careers," said Thompson. "We've all had the very good fortune to be present for something that's pretty rare in our Army at any time, especially right now when the Army as a whole is shrinking and we're witnessing the birth of a new unit. It's really, as you heard in its history, the rebirth of another unit, but it's never been called the 363rd before. Therefore, that particular flag has never been flown before."
Like a birth, this event was cause for festivity.
"This is really a day of celebration and I hope you grasp that as Soldiers," said Col. Ralph Henning, commander, 411th Engineer Brigade. "We have just stood up a new organization within the United States Army that is preparing to serve the country that we all love so much."
While the unit is new, the Soldiers and civilians within are not.
"We know it was really only that flag that was uncased today and although it symbolizes a unit born anew, the Soldiers and civilians working beneath it have been accumulating experience for many years," said Thompson. "That beautiful new flag may be pristine, but in the formation before us our seasoned professionals, many with combat deployments, have put together some hundreds of years of wisdom and they're already working hard doing the mission."
Although the Soldiers and civilians in the unit are seasoned, there is still work to be done to establish the unit.
"This is a new challenge and it's going to be an adventure, but we have the opportunity to shape it - to create the culture here that will belong to the 363rd and I look forward to that collaboration, to some of that hard work, the relationship building, getting to know each person in the unit," said Lt. Col. Joseph Amon, commander, 363rd Engineer Battalion.
Amon also challenged the Soldiers within the new unit's ranks.
"2016 is the Year of the Squad Leader and so I'm going to challenge our [noncommissioned officers] to set the pace for performance, culture and readiness. I know you guys are up to the challenge and I look forward to working with you arm and arm to make that happen," he said. "Officers: I'm looking to you to lead. Commit yourselves to improving yourself and the unit and making sure every Soldier is taken care of. All Soldiers: I challenge you to train, listen and to develop that teamwork and collaborate."
The unit has had two inactivations as well as two redesignations, but with this activation Amon is ready to lead the 363rd Eng. Bn.
"I want you to know the 363rd is open for business," said Amon. "Clear, Build, Defend!"