GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — The 69th Signal Battalion and Dragon Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, both fixtures of the Bavarian military community for decades, held separate deactivation ceremonies Friday.
The 69th Signal Battalion cased its colors at the Grafenwöhr garrison, while Dragon Company — the armored element of 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment — held its closing ceremony at the training facilities at the Hohenfels training post.
The shuttering of Dragon Company means the end of a unit that has existed in Europe since 1990, as well as the loss of 185 soldiers from the Hohenfels-based opposing forces team. Among those soldiers are 19 M-1 Abrams tank operators, whose departure will have an immediate impact on the regiment, said 1-4 commander Lt. Col. Barry Carlson.
“We as a battalion, each and every time we go into the box, we’re going to miss those guys because of their understanding of combined arms maneuver and their ability to maneuver within the terrain of Hohenfels,” Carlson said. “It’s going to be a degradation of OpFor capabilities that will take time to overcome.”
Carlson said the tank operators will be supplanted by operators from their multinational partners and from the infantry ranks.
The closure of the 69th Signal Battalion will have less of an impact on day-to-day operations, though it is more of a historic event - it has operated in Europe on and off since 1944. The unit is being replaced by the Bavarian Signal Company, which will carry out the same mission under the command of the 102nd Signal Battalion based in Wiesbaden, Germany.
According to Angela Ramirez, the outgoing chief intelligence and security officer for the 69th Battalion, the tinge of sadness felt by members of the 69th is tempered by the pride in what the unit accomplished during its long, storied history.
“I’m a veteran, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been in a unit with so much esprit d’corps as this one does,” she said. “The 69th is a great group of soldiers and civilians working together to accomplish a huge mission - and we do it well.”