FORT BLISS, Texas -- Cheers of excitement and waves of applause cut through the crisp autumn air as 1st Armored Division Soldiers and veterans were recognized and celebrated at a ceremony closing the annual Torch Week commemoration.
Iron Soldiers from across 1AD participated in the division's annual Torch Week event from November 4-7, participating in sporting competitions, demonstrations and celebrations designed to build morale across the unit, strengthen family readiness and fortify unit cohesion.
"Torch week is a planned event each year where we can bring in Soldiers, families, veterans and the community to come support and celebrate the division," said Maj. Devin Henry, a native of Newport, Rhode Island, an operations officer for 1AD and the action officer for Torch Week. "Soldiers have the opportunity to have sporting competitions and events, spend time with family and also build morale within their units."
The 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1AD, won the 2019 Torch Week Award, an honor which was presented to the brigade that won the most sports competitions during the week. The sports events included combatives, basketball, flag football, softball and ultimate frisbee tournaments as well as 10k and 5k races, a golf scramble event and a bowling challenge.
"This week's events and competitions are primarily tailored towards building espirit de corps and having fun," said Henry. "Families can come and watch their Soldiers compete in sporting events, as we have gyms and facilities open for visitors. It's usually difficult for families to come see competitions such as the best ranger, best tank or best warrior which are inaccessible to guests, so a lot of the sporting events were tailored to each brigade's capabilities and facilities to allow for maximum participation."
Torch Week is named for 1AD's participation in Operation Torch, a World War II campaign focused on the invasion of North Africa in 1942.
"We took a memorable event for the Division, 1AD's participation in Operation Torch, and we made it into an event for the week," said Henry. "It's not just about the sports or bringing units together, it's also about the remembrance of the veterans who came before us and to commemorate them through the events that we have throughout the week, finishing with the Veterans Day ceremony and parade. It brings it all together in a culminating event to share that moment and remember all of their sacrifices."
Six 1AD veterans and participating members of the 1st Armored Division Association, an organization composed of veterans and family members committed to preserving and honoring the legacy of the division, also participated in Torch Week by attending demonstrations, receiving tours and meeting Iron Soldiers. 1AD honored two World War II veterans who participated in Operation Torch, George Weese Jr., a native of St. Louis and retired private first class with the 16th Engineer Battalion, Horace Carratelli, a native of New York City and retired first sergeant with the 123rd Armored Ordnance Battalion, Vietnam War veteran John Lessick, a native of Chicago and retired specialist 4 with the 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, Gulf War veteran Joseph Theriot, a retired first sergeant with 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment and former 1AD command sergeants majors Roger Blackwood and David Davenport.
"I think events like Torch Week are great. It allows for Soldiers to take a break from training," said Theriot. "Taking a break from training allows Soldiers to relax a little bit and to stand down. Relaxation time is needed, because if you're constantly stressed, you lose that fighting edge."
Soldiers had the opportunity to meet the veterans, listen to their stories and share their experiences with 1AD and the Army, learning and understanding about the division's past.
"Most of the time, people ask what you did back then, and people talk about what went well. But it's important to know what happened incorrectly or poorly too, so that we can learn from those mistakes in the past," said Theriot. "The rank and file Soldier should talk with the veterans so they can learn what went wrong and what to avoid. You can always find something to take back when you talk with a veteran."
Torch Week provides the opportunity for Soldiers to build morale within their units and to further solidify the bonds and partnerships that bind them, ensuring that 1AD remains a committed and capable force ready to meet any mission goals.
"Building morale for the unit is important, as happy soldiers can spread the word and be good spokesmen for the division," said Henry. "What's most important with our morale is that we take this spirit forward as we prepare for deployments and any rotational missions. Soldiers will bring these ideas and this 'winning is everything' competitive attitude towards their future in with the division."