ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, ILL. -- Lt. Gen. J. Michael Bednarek and Command Sgt. Maj. Jessie L. Andrews Jr. hosted a formal award ceremony Friday, Aug. 10 at the First Army Headquarters to recognize the unit's Army Superior Unit Award presentation.

The Army Superior Unit Award is a decoration established by the Secretary of the Army which is awarded to an Army unit that displays outstanding meritorious performance in a difficult and challenging mission carried out under extraordinary circumstances.

First Army earned this meritorious distinction by successfully mobilizing, training, validating, and deploying more than 5,000 units and 260,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and civilians in support of Overseas Contingency Operations worldwide during the period of June 1, 2008 to Sept 30, 2011. First Army is one of only six Army units that have earned the distinguished Army Superior Unit Award this year.

The unit provided trainer/mentor support to numerous successful exercises in support of United States Army Reserve and National Guard training in order to best prepare them for mobilization. The award reflects the extraordinary efforts and exemplary performance of the Soldiers and Civilians of First Army Headquarters.

"We've been hard at work - doing our nation's bidding for greater than 10 years now - training, deploying, redeploying, and taking care of our Reserve Component citizen-warriors. This award and streamer we've earned are a direct reflection on the collective talents, abilities, sweat, professionalism, and dedication of the entire First Army formation," said Bednarek.

The ceremony also highlighted the unveiling of First Army's new historical display in its main foyer. A formal cake cutting ceremony followed to celebrate First Army's 94th Birthday.

First Army was activated in France during WWI in August 1918 under the command of Gen. John J. "Blackjack" Pershing. First Army commanded Soldiers from the Army's three components; Active, Guard and Reserve until the eve of WWII, when it resumed a combat role and continued to distinguish itself. First Army established an impressive record of "firsts" in WWII. First Army troops were the first Americans to enter Paris on their way across Northern France and through the Ardennes Forest. They were the first to cross the Siegfried Line into Germany in September 1944 and reached the Rhine in March 1945.

After World War II, First Army headquarters was located on Governor's Island, N.Y. In 1946, First Army was designated as one of six continental U.S. Armies responsible for supervising and training Army National Guard units, as well as commanding all installations in its area of control. First Army mobilized and deployed thousands of Soldiers during the Korean War and Vietnam.

First Army gained the entire continental United States in its mission of mobilization, training and deployment of all Army National Guard and Reserve Soldiers as part of the Army's transformation efforts in 2006.

Currently, the mission of First Army is to advise, assist and train Reserve Component units during pre-mobilization periods. First Army conducts mobilization, training support, readiness validation and deployment of alerted forces. First Army also executes demobilization of Reserve Component forces in accordance with Department of the Army and United States Army Forces Command.

A multi-component organization composed of Active Duty, Active Duty Guard and Reserve and Army Reserve Troop Program Unit personnel. Full-time personnel comprise approximately one-quarter of the total strength. One-half of the total strength is Army Reserve personnel in Army Reserve units under the operational control of First Army.

First Army's specific mission requirements continue to evolve and expand as it enters its 95th year, but elevating the state of training and readiness for the war fighter by providing the right level of readiness for the right capabilities remains the cornerstone. Whatever those capabilities are, First Army continues to ensure that when called, America's Citizen-Soldiers are ready to achieve whatever task our nation gives them.