July 22 marked a historic day at Fort Knox"143 Soldiers with Company C of the 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment graduated during a ceremony held at Waybur Theater. The event was significant because it was the last armor One Station Unit Training class of tankers to graduate at Fort Knox due to the Armor School’s move to Fort Benning, Ga., as a part of the government-mandated Base Realignment and Closure.

Lt. Col. Darrell Green, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment welcomed the Families and guests to the ceremony. He also encouraged them to show their love and support of the Soldiers.

“This is a graduation, not a funeral,” he said.

Five platoons within the company took the stage, with each Soldier announcing his name before taking his seat.

After each Soldier had his moment, the company commander, Capt. Thane Keller, addressed the audience.

“Thank you for attending today’s ceremony. The men seated before you made a decision 15 weeks ago to stand in the gap between you and our many enemies; between freedom and oppression; and between justice and tyranny,” said Capt. Keller. “They volunteered themselves during a time of war when two things were absolutely certain"they would leave their loved ones for an extended period of time (to serve) in a harsh and unforgiving country and they would be placed directly in harm’s way. For this, your nation’s truly grateful.

“These men have been pushed mentally, physically, and emotionally to limits many which did not know they could reach. They’ve conducted hours of physical training; learned Army discipline, teamwork, and self motivation. They followed in the traditions of a long, but small line of dedicated Soldiers that include General Patton, General Lee, General Abrams …as of this morning, these men have earned the title of United States Soldier.”

The commander then reiterated the importance of the graduation.

“This day also marks a historic time in our Army"19 Kilo class 11-004 will be the very last class after 71 years to sweat and bleed on this Kentucky soil,” said Capt. Keller. “I could not think of a better group of Soldiers than these men to have this honor. I’m honored to call you tankers and look forward to serving with you on the field of battle.”

Capt. Keller then introduced the guest speaker, retired Command Sgt. Maj. William Beever.

“Soldiers, be proud of this accomplishment,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Beever. “You made a critical decision by joining in a time of persistent conflict and our nation at war, and you knew that you were entering at a tough time for the American public. You volunteered. You took the challenge and you have now made it through this stage of your career.”

He encouraged the graduates to stay physically and mentally fit, to stay tactically and technically proficient, and to participate in military boards and competitions. However, he also added that they should lead a balanced life that included hobbies and to live according to the Army values and Warrior ethos.

“Hold your head high, you now represent another piece of the (236) years of the United States Army history,” he said. “Forge the Thunderbolt! Army Strong! Battle Hard! Tankers!”