New Year, New Big Red One
Established in 1917, during the height of World War I, the 1st Infantry Division has played a pivotal role in the lethality and advancement of the U.S. Army. The Big Red One, so called for the red numeral that has adorned its shoulder patch since 1918, now sits in the Flint Hills area of Kansas.
The 1st Inf. Div.’s contributions to the nation’s defense not only offer insight into the history of the Army and the United States but through continued readiness and modernization, provide a vision for the future of Soldiers, warfighting mastery, unit deployment capabilities, and community.
During 2022, the division’s mission was no different, as the Big Red One implemented multiple programs and resources to ensure that each Soldier and their family members were mentally and physically fit.
Implemented in 2020, Operation Victory Wellness is a comprehensive, enduring operation to make every Soldier, Airman, Civilian, and family member more resilient and more robust across the five dimensions of strength: physical, emotional, social, family, and spiritual.
As the division’s highlight campaign for 2022, the Big Red One Year of Family (BYOF) was a year-long campaign within 1st Inf. Div.’s Operation Victory Wellness focused on building the strength and resilience of families, educating families about available resources, and showing appreciation for families' continued support.
“To our families, your actions are vital to the success of the 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley; we simply cannot accomplish our mission without you,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Niave F. Knell, the 1st Inf. Div. deputy commanding general-support. “The military family is one of the most critical assets we have in our Army today. It’s only fitting that we take a minute to pause and recognize them for their actions.”
Every quarter throughout the year, the division hosted a BYOF Recognition Award Ceremony that honored 1st Inf. Div. affiliated families for the hard work, dedication and sacrifices they made to support Soldiers, other families and the local community.
Also each quarter, the division hosted a Volunteer of the Quarter Award Ceremony to recognize Soldiers, military families, retirees, Department of the Army Civilians and military youth. The ceremonies were held to recognize Soldiers and Riley community members who have invested countless hours and resources to the installation and community through volunteering. This year’s volunteer recognition theme was ‘U.S. Army Volunteers: Shining a Light on the People and Causes That Inspire Us to Serve’.
For both the Family Recognition Award and the Volunteer of the Quarter Award, each recipient was nominated by their respective brigade command team to be considered for the award.
Throughout the 2022 calendar year, the 1st Inf. Div. recognized over 100 volunteers and 56 families (14 families each quarter) during 30+ signature BYOF events. The campaign ended with the installation’s annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Keith L. Ware Parade Field, where families gathered to kick off the winter holiday season.
And It’s ‘Hi, Hi, Hey’
During the year, the Big Red One opened its doors to more community members and welcomed partnerships with new organizations. In return, those new partners opened their doors right back, allowing the division to travel beyond the Flint Hills and influence other communities throughout the Nation through the ‘Meet Your Army’ campaign.
A total force outreach initiative designed to bridge the civilian and military divide, ‘Meet Your Army’ seeks to assist with recruiting efforts by allowing Soldiers more opportunities to connect with the American public, educate community and business leaders, and inspire youth to serve.
The 1st Inf. Div. teamed with both the Kansas City and the Chicago recruiting battalions. The division witnessed as the Kansas City recruiting battalion held an Oath of Enlistment ceremony during the final day of the Kansas City Chief’s football training camp, and worked alongside service members of the Chicago recruiting battalion when the division marched in the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade and participated in a Veterans Day joint service enlistment and reenlistment ceremony at the Chicago Bears v. Detroit Lions home game.
“The ‘Meet Your Army’ campaign is important because it opens up the service to the general public to have a better understanding of what it is that we do,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Christopher Collins, the KC Recruiting Bn. Commander and a former Big Red One Soldier. “It helps us with our mission for recruiting and allows us to be an integral part of the local community.”
Physically fit, and trained to fight and win at a moment’s notice, the division took to showcasing it’s talents to likeminded crowds by frequenting national sporting events. The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team was honored during a Sporting Kansas City soccer match in August for the team’s Military Appreciation Day, where one of the division’s special staff officers, U.S. Army Capt. Lauren McGovern, received special honors for being a member of the U.S. Armed Forces Women’s Soccer team.
“It’s very humbling to be honored like this,” said McGovern. “I think it’s awesome when any organization wants to support the troops. I know the other Soldiers think it’s cool to have the opportunity to walk out onto the field and kind of get the recognition they deserve for their hard work and sacrifice.”
For its Military Appreciation Day, NASCAR hosted the Big Red One and local recruiting battalions, where over 30 service members participated in a mass reenlistment ceremony during the race.
In July, the 1st Inf. Div. Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard, one of the six remaining horse detachments in the Army, was invited to participate in ‘The Daddy of ‘Em All’, the 126th Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, the World’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration.
Troopers of the CGMCG had the opportunity to participate in opening ceremonies, conduct their signature cavalry charge and cavalry tactics and maneuvers demonstration, and interact with local Cheyenne, Wyoming community members and F.E. Warren Air Force Base service members.
The division also found its way to the eastern side of the states, when it participated in the U.S. Army 10-Miler Race in Washington D.C. and the Great Lakes Grand Prix race in Michigan City, Indiana.
No matter the sport, after every playoff and championship the team always comes home; the Big Red One was no different, as it was welcomed back to continue its long-lasting relationship with the Kansas State Wildcats, where the 1st Inf. Div. was honored at the university’s annual Fort Riley Day celebration in September as well as many other events throughout the year.
Expanding its reach and influence throughout the year, the division looks forward to strengthening its relations with its new partners, and building new ones in other regions of the nation.
A Change of Face
As every service member eventually learns, the start of a new year brings upon five different seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall and change of command.
This year, the 1st Inf. Div. experienced a hefty and healthy change of command season, with at least one member from each of the brigade command teams switching out.
May 11th, the division’s change of command season peaked when U.S. Maj. Gen. John V. Meyer III assumed command of the 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley from then U.S. Army Maj. Gen. D.A. Sims II, who served as the division commanding general for nearly two years.
“When I drove on to this post for the first time 24 years ago, it had a special feeling, and that feeling remains,” said Meyer, who previously served as a Big Red One Soldier. “It’s very humbling for me to command this division. I accept the responsibility to care for the Soldiers and Family members of the 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley.”
In the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Albert Serrano relinquished responsibility as the 1st CAB command sergeant major.
In the 1st Inf. Div. Artillery, U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Rickey Jackson relinquished responsibility of DIVARTY to U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael McLaughlin.
In the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, U.S. Army Col. Bryan Harris assumed command of the brigade from U.S. Army Col. Thomas “Bull” Smith.
In the Fort Riley-Garrison, U.S. Army Col. Michael Foote assumed command from U.S. Army Col. William McKannay, and U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Speichert relinquished responsibility to U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Poulin.
The 1st ABCT honored the division with the opportunity to witness a unique combined change of command ceremony, where the brigade had four battalion changes of command and two battalion relinquishments of responsibility following the brigade’s return to garrison from an 11-month deployment in support of the European Defense Initiative’s Atlantic Resolve mission.
During each ceremony, red and yellow roses are presented to the outgoing and incoming families. In the 1st Inf. Div., red roses being presented to the outgoing family symbolizes the unit’s love and respect for the family’s devotion and loyal support to the Soldiers and the families of the unit. Yellow roses being presented to the incoming family symbolizes the relationship that will grow between the family, the Soldiers and the Family Readiness Group. Although many red rose bouquets were presented this year and are now gone, those who received yellow roses are now and will always be Big Red One.
The Sun Never Sets on 1ID
It’s said that history repeats itself, and that things always come full circle to bring things back to their beginning. 2022 was a prime example of this saying reigning true. As the division was erected and organized for duty in Europe. Big Red One’s birthplace roots run deep as multiple brigades from the division deployed across the Atlantic to reassure the Nation’s NATO allies.
In February, the Division Headquarters and DIVARTY deployed to Europe following the Russian invasion in Ukraine.
Also in February, the 1st CAB hosted an uncasing ceremony in February to mark their return to garrison from a nine-month deployment rotation to various countries in Europe.
The 1st ABCT held an uncasing ceremony in July to mark the brigade’s return to from an 11-month deployment rotation.
During the year, the 2nd ABCT conducted two rotations to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California in preparation for a deployment to Europe. The brigade held a casing ceremony in November to symbolize the unit’s movement from one theater of operation to another. The Dept. of the Army announced on Sept. 22, 2022, that the 2nd ABCT would replace the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, to support the United States’ commitment to Operation Atlantic Resolve.
“The Army sent the Big Red One over to Europe,” said 40th Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James C. McConville. “And I had the chance to go over to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland, and what I can tell you is where American Soldiers went, they were welcomed. We often like to say, ‘Where America soldiers, freedom follows’ but what I saw was, ‘Where America soldiered, freedom remained’. That’s the difference these Soldiers are making overseas.”
Home Is Where the Heart Is
No matter if on the road to another U.S. city, or halfway across the globe to assist its NATO allies, when all is said and done, the 1st Inf. Div. returns to the Flint Hills of Kansas welcomed by spouses, children and the local community.
Understanding the adjustment to an environmental change of pace, the Fort Riley-Garrison, Soldier Family Readiness Groups and the local community all come together to show why the Big Red One is not just a military unit, but a family.
Known as one of the installation’s signature events, the Fall Apple Day Festival is the largest annual festival at Fort Riley with an average of over 7,000 attendees each year. The free open-community festival includes CGMCG demonstrations, interactive static displays, live music and more.
But the close-knit connection of the Flint Hills allows Fort Riley to experience family outside of the installation gates. The division participates in many local events held in the Junction City and Manhattan areas. From festivals, to parades, to community cleanup projects and trail rides, Soldiers and families of the Big Red One participate in monthly local community events.
In September, the state of Kansas honored fallen service members and their families by unveiling a new Gold Star Family monument at the Kansas State Capitol Visitors Center. The 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley Survivors Outreach Services assisted multiple Big Red One affiliated Gold Star Family members with the opportunity to attend the ceremony.
“My late husband was a part of the Big Red One, and the division has always done a phenomenal job of honoring their fallen,” said Sierra Herring, the 1st Inf. Div. Artillery Soldier and Family Readiness Group support assistant. “The Big Red One has done a good job about supporting their Gold Star families, keeping us involved, and letting us continue to be a part of the tradition here.”
As the Army’s oldest and most historic division, the 1st Inf. Div. continues to ensure that no mission is too difficult, no sacrifice is too great, and that they place duty first and people always.