America’s First Corps celebrates 249th Army Birthday and completion of Best Squad Competition

By Lt. Col. Jennifer BocanegraJune 14, 2024

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
JBLM hosts 2024 America's First Corps Best Squad Competitio
From left to right, Spc. Gregorio Gomez, Spc. Ezekiel Hernandez, Spc. Nikolas Soung, Staff Sgt. Trevor Smolinski, and Sgt. Jason Pantano, U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, celebrate their victory in the 2024 America’s First Corps Best Squad Competition on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, June 14, 2024. The rigorous five-day event tested the Soldiers in demanding challenges designed to evaluate their physical endurance, technical Soldier tasks and battle drills, and teamwork. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Chandler Coats) (Photo Credit: Sgt. Chandler Coats) VIEW ORIGINAL

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA – Service members, Department of Defense civilians, and family members gathered to celebrate the 249th birthday of the United States Army and honor the winning teams from this year’s Best Squad Competition at Carey Theater on the afternoon of June 14.

This year’s celebration was led by America’s First Corps Deputy Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Matthew McFarlane and the I Corps Command Sergeant Major, Command Sgt. Maj. Shawn Carns.

In his address, McFarlane highlighted the Army’s enduring legacy and its unwavering commitment to defending the nation. “Today, we gather with immense pride to celebrate the 249th birthday of the United States Army,” he said. “This day is a testament not only to our storied past but to the dedication and resilience that you, our soldiers, noncommissioned officers, and officers, display every day.”

Founded on June 14, 1775, the U.S. Army stands as one of the earliest pillars of American resilience and strength. Reflecting this year’s theme, “Honoring the Past, Defending the Future,” the General emphasized the Army’s continuous call to “Be All You Can Be.” He noted the Army’s diverse career paths, with over 200 roles available, empowering soldiers to pursue excellence in various fields.

McFarlane also recognized the exceptional training and readiness of America’s First Corps. “Your training across the world’s most challenging environments ensures our readiness for any mission,” he stated. He lauded the participants of the Best Squad Competition, commending their skill, teamwork, and warrior ethos.

The Best Squad Competition, a highlight of the event, showcased the tactical expertise and excellence of the participants. Both McFarlane and Carns congratulated the winning teams and all who competed, underscoring the importance of such competitions in fostering teamwork and excellence.

“Over the last five days, ten I Corps Squads set out to achieve absolute excellence and be named the I Corps Best Squad for 2024. This annual competition concluded today with one squad being identified as the best within the Corps. The winning Squad will now move on to the FORSCOM competition to compete against 11 Best Squads across all other competing major commands,” said the I Corps Operations Senior Enlisted Leader, Sgt. Maj. Donald Durgin. “These competitions bring out the very best in our Squad leaders and their subordinates alike; they have proven that readiness and mastering the fundamentals are essential to what we do in this profession. I could not be more proud to serve amongst these NCOs and Soldiers today as we celebrate the Army’s 249th Birthday.”

America’s First Corps’ commitment to readiness and modernization was also highlighted, with specific mention of Operation Pathways and the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center training exercises. McFarlane praised these efforts, which enhance alliances and deter threats, showcasing the U.S. Army as a pivotal force for good.

As the Army marks 51 years of an all-volunteer force, the General acknowledged the selflessness of those who choose to serve and the sacrifices of their families.

“To the families who stand strong beside our Soldiers, your unwavering support and countless sacrifices are the unsung heroism that empowers our all-volunteer force,” said Command Sergeant Major Sean Carns, I Corps Senior Enlisted Leader.

The event concluded with a celebratory note, marking the 249th birthday of the U.S. Army. “It’s almost like a double win where we get to celebrate two things at once,” said Sgt. Jason Pantano, one of the winning squad members from the First Corps Best Squad Competition, assigned to the 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command. “We get to celebrate our victory in our first-place win and the Army’s birthday. It’s just a great day.”

The celebration at Joint Base Lewis-McChord not only honored the Army’s rich history but also reinforced its commitment to future readiness and excellence, embodying the spirit of “Honoring the Past, Defending the Future.”