WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 13, 2011) -- The weather seemed to be adding its own commentary Friday morning to the Fort Knox ceremony that marked the departure of the Armor School and its remaining armor units -- the 194th Armored Brigade and the 316th Cavalry Brigade -- which will join the other armor elements that have already moved to Fort Benning, Ga.
A dark cloud brooded over the east end of Brooks Field, resulting in a few rumbles of thunder, jagged lightning, and finally a brief shower that bounced raindrops off the podium's microphone.
But the ceremony proceeded with appropriate dignity as the 15-canon salute was fired, colors were cased, and the Soldiers ordered to parade rest.
Retired Maj. Gen. Terry Tucker, a former Fort Knox commander and the 40th chief of the armor branch, took the stage shortly after the quick shower. He said it was a fitting time and place to bid farewell to his branch, then suggested that the lightening was one of armor's thunderbolts -- from the branch's oft-repeated catch line, "Forge the Thunderbolt."
The patter of raindrops on the microphone sounded like the hoof beats of horses -- a nod to the roots of today's armor force in the Cavalry days of horses and spurs. The rain drops, Tucker said, were the tears from Fiddler's Green, the proverbial final resting place for Cavalry and Armor Soldiers -- as well as a frequented watering hole at the Leaders Club on Fort Knox.
The Tank Corps was established in 1918 and changed the American way of war forever. However, he said the roots and heritage of armor go back much farther.
"We were born from the great mounted infantry Dragoons of 1832, forged as light cavalry during the Civil War, and honed during the late 1800s on the western plains," said Tucker.
The notion of combined arms maneuver and wide area security are not new concepts, he added, but a return to the principles learned by the American cavalry in the 19th century.
With World War II, the U.S. realized fast-moving forces protected by armor were required to respond to the German blitzkrieg. The U.S. Armor force was established at Fort Knox in 1940.
"The troops standing on the field today represent the hundreds of thousands of tankers, scouts, leaders, and followers that developed the tactics, designed and organized the force, and trained the warriors that made our mounted force the best the world has ever known," he said. "It was all done right here at Fort Knox."
To close his remarks, Tucker challenged the armor and cavalry warriors to be trained and ready for the awesome role they will play in the future.
Retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston addressed the crowd of Soldiers, civilians, and community leaders with a familiar exhortation known to all who have worn the Army uniform: "If it ain't rainin', it ain't trainin'."
He acknowledged that it was a bittersweet moment. Preston also said he enjoyed his three tours of duty at Fort Knox, but as one chapter of armor history was closing, another was opening.
"There are 250,000 Soldiers forward deployed today," he said. "Many senior leaders thought our Army couldn't stand the back-to-back deployments, but here we are, closing in on 10 years of conflict in Afghanistan and eight years in Iraq. Three hundred thousand people were moved due to [Base Realignment and Closure] -- with all these moving pieces, I couldn't be prouder of this Army."
The Armor School has trained more than 300,000 Soldiers and Marines during its time at Fort Knox, Preston said. In addition, the Armor School is known around the globe as an educational opportunity not to be missed, with 50 different countries sending their armor officers to Fort Knox for courses.
"The same proud traditions will be carried to Fort Benning," Preston said. "You are all part of its rich legacy. Armor and Cavalry will remain the decisive force on the battlefield."
Col. Michael Wadsworth assumed his duties as the deputy commandant of the Armor School in 2010. He said the Armor School Commandant, Brig. Gen. Ted Martin, often refers to the school as "the Academy of Mounted Warfare."
"The Fort Benning community -- the new home of Armor and Cavalry -- has embraced us," said Wadsworth. He thanked the supportive leadership of the previous Armor chiefs -- Gens. Terry Tucker, Robert Williams, Donald Campbell, James Milano, as well as Col. David Teeples, who "made it happen."
"We have made the Armor School better," Wadsworth added. "We took all we learned at Fort Knox and implemented it at Fort Benning."
Wadsworth explained that the Armor and Infantry together are a winning combination.
"The two branches have proven that they can integrate in the battle, so it's only appropriate that we train as we fight," he said.
With the many improvements made at Fort Benning, including 140 miles of roads and tank trails, it is now the largest Army training installation in the world.
"The future of Armor and Cavalry is bright," he assured the crowd.