FORT IRWIN, CALIF – In the quaint little town of Wescott, Wisconsin, sits the home of late Army General Robert W. Cone and his widow, Mrs. Jill Cone. General Cone assumed command of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) in April of 2011 after he was promoted to the rank of four-star general. General Cone was diagnosed with cancer four months after his promotion to four-star general. He retired in 2014, passed away on September 19, 2016, and laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, on December 9, 2016.
Before becoming a general officer, Cone had a notable history with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. While the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment was in Fulda, Germany, Cone served as the 2nd Squadron Operations Officer during Operation Desert Storm, the Regimental Operations Officer in 1991, and the Regimental Executive Officer in 1993.
At Fulda, Germany, the role of the 11th Armored Cavalry was changing. Their mission in Germany had ended, and they were deactivated in October 1993. As the Executive Officer, Cone oversaw the closing of the 11th ACR’s military offices, housing areas, and bases.
On March 15, 1994, at 1700 hours, the color guard for the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment lowered the flag at Downs Barracks, folded it neatly, and presented it to the Mayor of Fulda, Germany, ending the Regiment’s service in the country.
In 2004, Cone became the Commanding General of the United States Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. During his 33 months in command, he implemented many changes to include reorienting training on counterinsurgency operations (COIN) and establishing the Joint Center of Excellence to train for the defeat of improvised explosive devices.
“I remember talking to General Cone about the museum when he was in command of the National Training Center,” said Kenneth Drylie, the current heritage center curator. “He took great pride in the fact he had been there to oversee the departure of the regiment from Germany. He talked about packing up the Regimental historical displays and shipping them to the US.”
General Cone saved almost every piece of military memorabilia he received during his 35 years in the United States Army, from his uniform when he attended the United States Military Academy to plaques that he received from all of the units he served in or commanded. Mrs. Cone decided to donate a selection of his belongings to Fort Irwin.
“I’m donating Bob’s things because I want people to get a glimpse into the incredible person he was,” says Ms. Cone. “I could no longer live with my walls full of all of his things; it was too much of a reminder of my loss.”
Leadership at the National Training Center made the decision to name the Heritage Center after General Cone before she chose to donate the memorabilia.
“When I found out the Heritage Center was going to be named after Bob, I felt great emotion. I heard about it from one of his former aides, Lieutenant Col. Mike Ziegelhofer. He is like a brother/son. We first met him at Fort Irwin when Bob selected him to be his aide. Since Bob has died, Ziggy has been an incredible support to me. These kind of friendships are the thing I miss the most about the Army.”
The Museum at Fort Irwin was originally stood up at a former Dining Facility in 1999 and closed on July 1st, 2018 for an extensive remodel and conversion to a “Heritage Center.”
Highlighted in the Heritage Center is the rich history of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Displays trace the history of the 11th ACR from its beginnings in 1901 through its many deployments to the mission of the 11th ACR to train America’s fighting forces.
New to the Heritage Center are displays highlighting the mission and history of the Operations Group and the 916th Support Brigade. Future plans include adding displays celebrating the US Army Garrison, U.S. Army Medical Department Activity (MEDDAC) and U.S. Army Dental Activity (DENTAC).
The Military and Civilian Spouses Club Gift Shop has also been relocated to Heritage Center in building 222.
Mrs. Cone will join other special guests on August 28th, 2021, for the opening of the General Robert W. Cone Heritage Center which will coincide with the celebration of the National Training Center’s 400th rotation.