FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Senior Fort Leonard Wood leaders from the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School — along with current and former Soldiers from across the CBRN Regiment — came together on Wednesday afternoon at Memorial Grove to unveil a new statue in honor of the 23rd Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosives Battalion, currently headquartered at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, and known as the “Lion Battalion.”
Brig. Gen. Sean Crockett, USACBRNS commandant — and a former 23rd CBRNE commander — introduced the guest speaker for the event, Maj. Gen. James Bonner, MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general.
Bonner — himself a former executive officer and later, also commander of the 23rd CBRNE Battalion — spoke on what this memorial means to him personally.
“For me, I see people,” Bonner said. “It is about history, but I see people…all of us who have served together. My time, when I reflect on it, that’s what I think we will all see, is our people and who we served together with.”
Bonner added that “our strength is how we stay together.”
“I tell you, it’s lifelong friends that we have made,” he said. “And we now have a special place in our Memorial Grove.”
The current command team for the 23rd were on hand for the ceremony as well.
“It’s really a sincere honor to be here, along with my battle buddy, Command Sgt. Maj. Emilio Lopez, to represent your current Lion Battalion,” said Lt. Col. Raul Salinas, 23rd CBRNE commander. “We’re immensely proud of where our Soldiers stand today, but first, we’d like everyone to understand where our Lion Soldiers came from.”
Salinas and Lopez then provided a brief history of the unit, which was activated in May 1944, in England, as a smoke-generator battalion for World War II — the unit provided smoke obscuration at Omaha Beach during the Normandy landings. The battalion also served in the Korean War and in Germany in the 1950s, before being inactivated in June 1959, Salinas said.
In 1988, the unit was reactivated in Korea, as the 23rd Chemical Battalion, with operational control of all chemical companies in the Korean theater, Lopez said, noting the unit motto, “Two joined as one,” — or “Moong Chi Ja,” as it is said in the Korean language — refers to the relationship between the U.S. and South Korea, and the inclusion of Korean Augmentees to the U.S. Army — called KATUSAs — in the unit.
The battalion was deployed to Afghanistan from 2007 to 2008, in support of Combined Joint Task Force-76, under the 82nd Airborne Division, and was responsible for mission command of base operations for Bagram Airfield and five forward operating bases throughout Afghanistan, Lopez said.
The unveiled memorial consists of a black, granite base with an inscription that reads, “In honor of all Lion Soldiers, who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of freedom. Two joined as one. Moong Chi Ja!” Also included is a list of the numerous campaign streamers awarded to the unit and a “grandessa lion” sits atop the base.