"Say Centennial!"
Roughly 2,000 Fort Knox Soldiers, Department of Defense employees, family members, civic leaders and surrounding community members recreated history May 23 when they formed the words FORT KNOX on Brooks Field. The event was inspired by a similar photo taken 100 years ago when about 10,000 Soldiers gathered to form the name of the newly established Camp Knox.
According to Brig. Gen. John Evans, commanding general of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, that first gathering occurred four days after the armistice was signed Aug. 11, 1918 by Allied forces and Germany, ending World War I.
Fort Knox Public Affairs Officer Ryan Brus said this most recent gathering was designed to commemorate that monumental event and encourage others to learn more about Fort Knox history.
The idea for the photo shoot surfaced at a first meeting between installation key leaders in November 2017 as they discussed ways to celebrate the installation's centennial anniversary.
"The Camp Knox photo taken in 1918 was brought up," said Brus. "It's an iconic image for this installation. We thought, 'What an outstanding way to tip our hat to history by trying to replicate it a hundred years later.'"
According to Charles Cline, special projects officer at the Fort Knox Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, planning for the event was fairly smooth at first, but became more complicated as the event grew nearer.
"We have to have a precise amount of individuals to support the numbers for both civilians and Soldiers," said Cline. "People told us a certain number and then it changed back and forth for whatever reason because of things going on in the units every day."
At the helm of the design for the photo was John Wiseman, an engineer with the Fort Knox Directorate of Public Works who was appointed to figure out how many people were needed to fill in the letters and create a border around them.
"It really wasn't that hard for me. I just laid it out and figured the ratio," said Wiseman. "The fact that I had to change the plans five or six times was probably the hardest part, and getting everything organized."
Organizing the event fell primarily to Cline, who said, "Unit support and the garrison staff have been absolutely fantastic on this."
Wednesday's photo shoot was originally scheduled for the day prior but the threat of rain forced leaders to move it forward. The decision proved correct as Soldiers stepping off of busses around noontime were greeted with sunshine and a soft breeze. Busloads of Soldiers continued to arrive for the next two hours.
Among the Soldiers waiting for the event to start was Pvt. Eric Cedillo, a carpenter/mason with 19th Engineer Battalion. The 18-year-old from Houston, Texas, joined the Army six months ago, arriving to Fort Knox just in time to be part of the event.
"We found out about this event on Monday," said Cedillo. "Our sergeant told us we were going to have a full day. He told us we were going to have our picture taken. I thought it was going to be small -- just our company!"
While participants waited for the moment to come, they were greeted with food, drinks and official T-shirts sold by Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation staff.
Matthew Rector, historic preservation specialist at the Fort Knox Cultural Resources Office, arrived in time to participate in the event.
"This post has touched many people and their lives, so it's nice to be able to participate in the recognition of this history," Rector said. "It prompts people to ask why. 'Why are we doing this? What's going on today?' I'm proud that Fort Knox is recognizing its history."
At 2 p.m., Evans addressed the crowd, followed by WQXE Morning Show Host Greg Milby, who emceed the event. Shortly afterward, representatives from Association of Defense Communities awarded Fort Knox leaders a flag to recognize the greater Fort Knox region's status as one of only five military communities named as a Great American Defense Community for 2018.
Cline then took to the mic and began directing traffic as Soldiers, civilians and members of the Bluegrass ChalleNGe Academy filed onto the field and took their places. A radio transmission operator stood nearby, communicating with a flight crew from 8th Battalion, 229th Aviation Regiment, who circled around the field with photographers and a video crew. On the ground but high above the field, Charlie Leffler from Fort Knox Visual Information, also snapped photos.
Cline told the crowd to "Face forward and remain still -- Say Centennial!"
After the photo opportunity concluded, Fort Knox Garrison Commander Col. Pat Kaune thanked all those who participated, including Gold Neighbors and community leaders. He also thanked those in attendance for their support, saying the photo op became a reality because of them.
"I started my career at Knox 26 years ago, but from a historical standpoint, Fort Knox has meant everything in terms of supporting our Army, our nation," Kaune said. "It's a great community to be a part of."
He also acknowledged those who served here 100 years ago.
"I appreciate what they did, and I think it's as much as anything a tribute to those Soldiers and the community support they had back in 1918," he said. "We have a tremendous amount of community support here in 2018, and it's a great feeling to be a part of it."