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COMMAND TEAM CORNER - ‘Iron Rangers’ make history at Bastille Day

By Brig. Gen. William A. Turner | 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley acting senior commander | July 14, 2017

     Soldiers, families and friends of the 1st Infantry Division,

     This year marks the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I and the birth of the nation’s 1st Infantry Division. Within this centennial are hundreds stories with hundreds of chapters — all bound together in the “Big Red One’s” history. Today we make room for yet another chapter – this one written by our 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team.

     Right now a contingent of “Iron Ranger” Soldiers are in Paris, France, to take part in France’s Bastille Day festivities. Bastille Day, July 14, 1789, was a turning point during the French Revolution, which ultimately led to the beginning of their democracy. It can very well be equated to our Independence Day, which we celebrate every July 4.

     In 1880, the French Parliament officially declared July 14 a national holiday, and starting that year, and every year since, they have held a military parade – the oldest and largest in the world. It takes place on the Champs- Elysées in Paris between the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde. Traditionally, the French government honors a country by inviting them to participate in the parade. This year they chose the United States, and the United States chose only the best to represent them on the world stage.

     The Iron Rangers’ selection to participate in France’s largest national holiday was not incidental. A hundred years ago on July 4, 1st Battalion’s sister unit – 2nd Bn., 16th Inf. Regt. – marched through the streets of Paris at the request of the French government. The French wanted to honor the United States’ Independence Day and also believed the march would strengthen the spirits of the French citizens who, up to that point, had not yet seen the might of the U.S. Army on the battlefields of World War I.

     Fittingly, that day the march led the Soldiers to the tomb of the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolution, where they declared, “Lafayette, we are here!”

     On Nov. 3, 1917, those same infantry men, and many others from the 16th Inf. Regt., would go on to be the first to fight in the trenches of WWI. Sadly, they would also see the first casualties. Because of their sacrifices, the French government would later erect a monument in their honor. To this day, the people of France remember the sacrifices made by the 16th Inf. Regt. and the 1st Inf. Div. during that battle and the Great War.

     It is no surprise that today our very own 1st Bn., 16th Inf. Regt., will not only take part in the Bastille National Day Parade in Paris, but also lead the parade – a historic first for any U.S. military or civilian organization. Additionally, they will fulfill the responsibility of commander of troops.

     Join me in commending our Iron Rangers for representing the 1st Inf. Div. and the U.S. Army on such a grand occasion.

     Our storied division has many more chapters like this in our 100-year history, and our outstanding Soldiers continue to add to that history day after day. They are the embodiment of our motto: “No Mission Too Difficult, No Sacrifice Too Great – Duty First!”

 

Duty First!

Brig. Gen. William A. Turner

1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley acting senior commander