WUERZBURG, Germany, July 6, 2006 - The U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division, known as the "Big Red One," bid farewell to its host country of Germany at Victory Park on Leighton Barracks here today.
The colors of Big Red One are scheduled to be unfurled at Fort Riley, Kan., Aug. 1, and the division will assume command and control of its units now there. Among other duties, the division is slated to take on the mission of training foreign security forces training teams in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
Despite numerous deployments to distant countries within the past 10 years, Big Red One soldiers have built lasting relationships with German friends and colleagues. For many, the ceremony marks a bittersweet day.
"When I think about the division leaving Germany and returning to the states, I can't help but be saddened just a little," Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Hunzeker, 1st ID commanding general, said. "Like many of you, I've spent a large part of my military life here in Germany. We will miss the culture, the people, the partnerships, the opportunity to travel, and even the challenges associated with leading troops overseas.
"Serving in Europe has also afforded our leaders the opportunity to visit battlefields and walk the ground where our forefathers fought during World War I and World War II," Hunzeker said. "We are humbled to have been so fortunate to be able to study our profession on the ground that was fought to bring back freedom and democracy to this great continent."
Though first established in 1917 during World War I, the division moved to Germany for the first time immediately after World War II and remained here until 1955, when it first moved to Fort Riley.
Since that time, the Big Red One has answered the call to fight in Vietnam, operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, before returning to Germany for the second time April 10, 1996. Within the last 10 years, the 1st ID has played key roles during peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II from February 2004 to February 2005.
"The Big Red One is privileged to have served more than 43 cumulative years on European soil," Hunzeker continued. "Thousands upon thousands of 1st Infantry Division veterans, from almost every era in our history, have shared in the experience of living and serving alongside our friends and neighbors in this great country. The fond memories that we have all had serving in Europe help to forever link us to the group of veterans who are very proud to have worn our patch and to the generations of Germans who have shown us hospitality for so many years."
Numerous special attendees were at the event, including Gen. David McKiernan, U.S. Army Europe commanding general; Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, 5th Corps commanding general; Command Sgt. Maj. Iuniasolua Savusa, USAREUR command sergeant major; Lt. Gen. Wolfgang Otto, German Army Forces Command commanding general; Pia Beckmann, lord mayor of Wurzburg; and Paul Beinhofer, Lower Franconia District president, who also spoke during the ceremony.