DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. ‒ Within the Army, there are some long-standing traditions. One of these traditions is arming general officers with their own sidearm.
Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, Program Executive Officer Ground Combat Systems, accepted his M17/18 SIG Sauer Modular Handgun System in a small ceremony Feb. 25.
“This is very special to me personally,” Dean said, “You never come into the Army expecting to be a general officer. This is sort of a great symbol of the Army’s commitment.”
Normally, the General Officer Pistol Program team ships the pistol directly to the recipient. Recently, however, Julie Ferrigno, Accountable Officer for the GO Pistol Program, had the opportunity to present a pistol in person to a recently promoted general officer.
“Officers are authorized special equipment [IAW Army Regulation 725-1] upon nomination to general officer,” said Ferrigno, “They can also purchase the pistol [from the Army] upon their retirement as a sentimental item.”
Dean stated that he thinks it is a great symbol that has a historical link through the generations of Army service. He also linked it to the history of his own career when he was the Small Arms Chief for the Joint Combat Pistol Program at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“This is very much about history and tradition,” he said, “It’s easy to forget that behind history and tradition is the people who serve behind the scenes.”
From the American Revolution through America’s participation on World War I, general officers procured their own sidearms at personal expense. It was not until 1943, in the middle of World War II, that the Army started equipping it generals with standard-issue pistols. The first of which was the Colt 1908.
This Colt variant remained the Army’s pistol of choice until the 1970’s, when they replaced it with the M15. This pistol was a modified version of another Colt pistol, the M1911, made at the Rock Island Arsenal.
The Army replaced that pistol in the 1980’s with the Beretta M9, which remained in service for more than 30 years.
Finally, in 2017, the Army procured its newest and most current pistols, the SIG Sauer Modular Handgun System comprising both the full-size M17 and compact M18. According to official Army reports, the handgun system is believed to be the most reliable pistol the Army has ever seen. The first of these pistols was delivered to Gen. Mark Milley, then Chief of Staff of the Army, in November 2017.