Tacoma, Wash. -- The six Soldiers walking through the center of the Murano Hotel ballroom Feb. 10 carried the flags of their nation, their service and the unit they were there to celebrate. The uniforms they wore made it clear this was not going to be a typical military ball. Three of the Soldiers wore the current dress uniform of today's Army. The other three wore replicas of uniforms that have not been used since the First World War, when America's First Corps was first organized in 1918.
"As it is the Centennial Ball -- the hundred-year [anniversary] of I Corps -- I mean, this is where we came from," said, Sgt. Alexander Napier, an Apache armament mechanic assigned to 4th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, looking down at the greenish-brown uniform he was wearing. "It shows a great deal of difference from this uniform to our current Army Service Uniforms. It's really amazing to see and feel the difference."
The 100 years of courage event was Napier's first time performing in a ceremony as a member of an honor guard. "Being a part of the ball was a great honor and the train up for it was intense," said Napier, who carried the nation's colors for the event.
The uniform with its wide-brimmed hat and canvas gaiters harkened back to the battlefields of France, where during World War I, the Soldiers of America's First Corps held allied lines before leading 23 divisions into Germany. I Corps' historic legacy went on to include a string of Pacific victories in World War II, and continued through the Korean War.
In more recent years, I Corps and its subordinate units supported operations in Southwest Asia in the Global War on Terror before shifting focus back to the Pacific in 2012.
"Tonight's ball is just the first of many events designed to highlight the many accomplishments of America's First Corps throughout the last century," said Lt. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, commanding general of America's First Corps and Joint Base Lewis McChord, during his opening speech at the Centennial Ball.
From the trenches of World War One in Europe to the jungle climates of the Pacific and the dusty mountains of Southeast Asia, I Corps has participated in more campaigns than any other corps. I Corps is the active Army's most decorated corps and the only corps ever to receive the U.S. Presidential Unit Citation.
"While participating in all these events, we've learned what it takes to fight in all of these environments," said Volesky, "and if the Nation calls… I know we will be ready to deploy, fight and win decisively anywhere."
Today, America's First Corps stands ready to deploy when called upon and has a renewed focus on Soldier readiness. It continues to partner with allies in the Pacific with major exercises throughout the year such as Talisman Sabre in Australia, Yama Sakura in Japan, and Ulchi Freedom Guardian in Korea.
"This past year has certainly been a hectic and historic one for our Corps and our Army," said Col. Mike McGregor, I Corps staff member and the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. "The officers, NCOs, Soldiers and civilians of America's First Corps have added abundantly to the chapter of our nation's history, as we continue to support operations around the world."