FORT RILEY, Kansas - The First Infantry Division returned from a deployment in February of 2023. The historic Division, the oldest in the U.S. Army, completed a rotation to support the nation’s allies and partners in Europe as part of the ongoing Operation Atlantic Resolve. The nearly year-long deployment tested the Big Red One’s mettle as it operated across nearly the entire continent, from the forests of Finland in the north to the shores of the Aegean in sunny Greece.
When the mission finally ended, what waited on the other side of the Atlantic, however, was as great a challenge as anything they faced in the old world: the logistical burden of returning an entire combined-arms division home.
For the Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division Artillery (DIVARTY), the challenge of deliberate reintegration was a welcome one and a chance to test its elite logisticians' prowess and mental capacity.
“Redeployment and reintegration are always different, and it’s always difficult,” said Maj. Matthew Boudro, the DIVARTY executive officer. “But we put people first, and that’s our framework for reintegration.”
The ability of a unit to return to its home station is a critical task for any organization. To do so without a loss of functionality and a minimum of time is a testament to an organization’s capability. Moreover, it's a vital task to rehearse in the event of a future conflict. For Boudro, after seeing the speed at which his organization reintegrated at Ft. Riley, there was no concern for the future at all.
“We have to be prepared to execute whenever the nation calls upon us,” said Boudro. “If we had to execute another mission tomorrow, we absolutely could.”
DIVARTY’s deliberate reintegration furnished a valuable opportunity for the organization to test its junior leaders and to see how effectively it could refit and reconfigure itself after a year in the field.
“We’ve got the right leaders in the right place,” said Boudro. “They're doing what they need to do in order to ensure that we set our Soldiers and our unit up for success and prepare our equipment for whatever is waiting on the horizon.”
Boudro also acknowledged that the mission would have been impossible without its enlisted Soldiers' efforts, especially its noncommissioned officers' efforts.
“At the end of the day, we cannot do anything without the NCOs,” said Boudro. “A staff can make all the great plans in the world, but if we don’t have great NCOs in our formations, nothing will happen.”
One of those NCOs, staff sgt. Steve Hill, the DIVARTY mobility noncommissioned officer-in-charge, was a key player in the mission’s reintegration effort for DIVARTY. The ease of return was surprising for Hill, even for an NCO of his experience.
“We got everything back here quicker than I expected,” said Hill. “Of course, we had our issues and delays, but that’s not any one person’s fault. I was blown away by how easy the return ended up being.”
Hill was only at Ft. Riley for a month, having recently arrived from his previous duty assignment in Korea when he got word that he’d be headed to Europe. However, despite the extreme circumstances, he said that he didn’t feel daunted.
“Yeah, I was relatively new when I heard that we were packing up the entire division,” said Hill. “I’d done exercises and such for operations like this before, but never an element this size, let alone into a real-world environment.”
Hill, by his own admission, enjoyed his time in Europe but said that the return journey was one of the more challenging aspects of the deployment. Even though his duties were demanding, Hill said he was impressed by how well the process came together in the final days of the mission.
“What I guess I’m trying to get at is that we just went right back into the battle rhythm; there wasn’t much of a slow-down,” said Hill. “We put the equipment back in the motor pool and then went on about our business.”
The nuts-and-bolts work of redeploying the organization all came to a head at the port of Riga, the capital city of the Latvian Republic, from whence DIVARTY would ship all of its vehicles and equipment to Corpus Christi, Texas, where it would be unloaded and then taken across the country on a train.
“One of the biggest things was making sure all the containers were good to go,” said capt. Constantine Tolias, the DIVARTY fires control officer and the mobility officer for the redeployment. “February in the Baltics is not a pleasant time, especially by the sea.”
With assistance from the Latvian government and the hard work and determination of the organization, DIVARTY managed to containerize its entire organization in four days. Following that, a month-long journey on a freighter ship brought the organization’s equipment back to the United States, after which a short i
“This went so well because like any great plan, it was well thought out,” said Tolias. “The Ready Reserve component at Camp Funston was instrumental in completing the last leg of this mission.”
After the vehicles were parked and the last Soldier was accounted for, DIVARTY settled in for some well-earned rest and relaxation during a scheduled block of leave. On the Soldier’s return from leave, the organization was ready to resume their mission.
“At the end of the day, it was the guys and gals of DIVARTY that came together to get us back here,” said Tolias. “I can’t thank them enough for doing what it takes to get this unit out the door.”
Echoing Tolias’ gratitude, Boudro credited the strength and professionalism that the organization displayed in its reintegration to the healthy organizational culture that exists between the Soldiers.
“This has been the smoothest reintegration that I’ve ever gone through,” said Boudro, who has served in the Army for 16 years. “I attribute that to the strong bonds shared by the Soldiers in our formation.”
“I’m proud of them,” said Boudro. “I hope they’re proud of themselves and the great work they’ve done.”
DIVARTY began regular workflow with its full organizational strength and equipment during the first week in April 2023, one month exactly from its redeployment.
Overall, DIVARTY fast and well-executed reintegration shows Ft. Riley and the 1st Infantry Division’s commitment to readiness and modernization. Our Nation expects us to fight and win on the battlefield, and when our teams maintain their equipment, they are deadly force.