By Staff Sgt. John Zumer, 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div. Public AffairsJune 14, 2011
It may be unusual to hear about a 236th birthday celebration, but the Soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke based out of Fort Knox, Ky., celebrated the U.S. Army’s founding during ceremonies at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Khowst Province, Afghanistan, June 14.
A morning reenlistment ceremony honoring 10 Soldiers who recently extended their service obligations kicked off the day’s events.
U.S. Army Col. Chris Toner, commander of the 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div., TF Duke and a native of Topeka, Kan., administered the oath, which always represents a special diversion from his normal daily duties.
"I find it extremely encouraging and special that almost 10 years since the War on Terror began, that we still have so many Soldiers willing to volunteer for continued military service," said Toner.
After his opening comments, Toner asked all the reenlisting Soldiers to raise their right hands to reaffirm their earlier oaths. Individual Soldiers were then presented with their reenlistment certificates commemorating the occasion, prior to photo opportunities with Toner and U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Drew Pumarejo, the senior enlisted Soldier for the 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div., TF Duke and a native of Harrisburg, Pa.
The event had special meaning for U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Elswick, a cryptologic linguist with 4th Platoon, Company B, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div., TF Duke and a native of Columbia, S.C. Having more than 10 years of military service already, the chance to reenlist with and in front of other Soldiers was something she didn’t want to pass up.
"It makes me proud. I didn’t have a formal ceremony before," said Elswick.
Brigade leadership and other special guests were later treated to a special lunch in the banquet room of the FOB Salerno dining facility. Following a long-standing Army tradition upheld every June 14 on the Army’s birthday, Toner recognized the oldest and youngest members of TF Duke.
Honored as the oldest and youngest Soldiers were U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Eric Ferguson, a 59-year old motor transport operator and 19-year old U.S. Army Pfc. Terrance Crockett, a communications specialist.
Commenting on the birthdates of the two Soldiers, Toner recited some historical trivia.
"In 1952, when Staff. Sgt. Ferguson was born, we were at the height of the Korean War," said Toner. "In 1992, when Pvt. First Class Crockett was born, Staff Sgt. Ferguson was already 40 years old," he said, triggering laughs from the two Soldiers and the rest of the attendees.
Both Soldiers then joined Toner and Pumarejo in cutting a large Army birthday cake, a tradition as time-honored as recognition of the youngest and oldest Soldiers.
The day was about much more than cutting cake, however. It was a chance for Soldiers to reaffirm their commitment to one of the oldest, most respected American institutions of all.
"It's a special day. I enjoy the Army and it’s a great job," said Elswick.