By Sgt. Jeremiah MeaneyDecember 12, 2018
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- The 525th Military Intelligence Brigade held their annual ball Thursday, October 18th at Iron Mike Conference Center on Fort Bragg. Though many of their numbers have been deployed since August, attendance at this year's Task Force Thunder Ball was aided by family members and past veterans of the brigade. The celebration coincided with 519th Military Intelligence Battalion's 70th Anniversary, an occasion formally acknowledged with a morning ceremony at the brigade's own conference room.
During the ceremony, veterans of the 519th were hosted by the brigade's rear detachment to recall the history of the unit, acknowledge the present deployment of the 525th in Afghanistan, and consider the future of the brigade. The commander of the 525th from 1985 to 1987, Retired Col. John A. Pattison, reminded the current generation of their importance to the unit. "Your history has yet to be written," Pattison said. "And you are the authors of that history."
The history of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion is certainly worthy of pride. Activated on October 15th, 1948 at Fort Riley, Kansas, it was heavily utilized during the Korean War. Seven campaigns, one Meritorious Unit Commendation, and two Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citations later, the unit absorbed the 523rd Military Intelligence Battalion and was deactivated. After a four-year hiatus, the 519th was reactivated at Fort Bragg on January 25, 1958.
During the Vietnam War, the unit participated in 16 campaigns, garnering three Meritorious Unit Commendations and becoming a subordinate to the 525th Military Intelligence Brigade. In October 1983, the 519th was deployed to Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury. Six years later, the unit would deploy again to USSOUTHCOM to serve a vital role in Operation Just Cause in Panama.
Several of the veterans in attendance at the ceremony had served in the 519th during those formative years in the 1980s. Retired Col. Richard Allenbaugh, Commander of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion from 1987-1989, regaled ceremony attendees with the story of the "Group Rock," a hefty stone painted in the traditional Military Intelligence color of oriental blue and stamped with the insignia of the 525th. A required feature of several group runs during its heyday, it was thought to be lost when it was taken to Panama. Later found in Col. Allenbaugh's attic, it was returned to the unit during the ceremony.
On the evening of the ball, older traditions were upheld as the official party welcomed guests and entered the ballroom with the room at attention. The Commander of Task Force Thunder, Lt. Col. Eric Haas, then gave the order to post the colors and spurred the evening's toasts. Following recognition of the Fallen Soldier table, in honor of those who could not be in attendance, the podium was given to Lt. Col. Haas for the task of welcoming guests and introducing the guest speaker.
Deputy Commanding General of the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg and Task Force Dragon Commander, Maj. Gen. Brian J. McKiernan honored the brigade as guest speaker for the Task Force Thunder Ball. Citing his own history with past and present veterans of the Military Intelligence community, Maj. Gen. McKiernan made it clear to his audience that the 525th was replete with legendary figures and due for more in the future.
Following an appropriately thunderous applause for the guest speaker, the traditions endured with the creation of two bowls of grog consisting of a cryptic recipe known only to those in attendance. As the night continued, generations of soldiers mingled while the 82nd Division Jazz Combo supplied professional grade performances and DJ Tommy King inspired soldiers to dance.
The evening concluded with dimmed lights, flash photography, and parting reminders to travel safely. As the ballroom emptied, several conversations contemplated next year's celebrations. Perhaps they had taken to heart something Lt. Col. Haas had said in his opening remarks. "A unit's history builds upon those who served before and sets a path for those today to follow."