WIESBADEN, Germany — After 40 years in Germany, 1st Armored Division headquarters soldiers will be trading in a diet of bratwurst and beer for one of Tex-Mex and barbeque.
“Old Ironsides,” as the division is nicknamed, was congressionally mandated in 2005 to relocate to Fort Bliss, Texas, from its home of the past 10 years in Wiesbaden. The division has been stationed in Germany since 1971.
A casing of the division’s colors occurred Friday at Wiesbaden Army Airfield to mark the 1st AD’s official transition stateside.
Although the familiar “Iron Soldiers” greeting, belted out during a salute, and the unit sleeve patch − jokingly referred to as “the Dorito patch” because of its triangular shape − will be notably absent in Wiesbaden, officials at Fort Bliss are ready to show the soldiers some hospitality.
Nearly $5 billion in construction projects are well under way at Fort Bliss, according to military officials, including a new 1st AD headquarters building slated to be completed this summer.
The cranes and construction crews should make 1st AD feel right at home, as Wiesbaden is also undergoing a $600 million overhaul in preparation for the arrival of the U.S. Army Europe headquarters.
Veteran 1st AD troops at the ceremony were sad to see the division leave Germany, but realize it’s a part of Army life.
“It’s just something that the Army does. (The Army) says ‘jump,’ we say ‘how high,’ ” said Sgt. Peter Cardel, who has been with the 1st AD band for six years.
Sgt. Ashleigh Berg said it’s hard to fathom 1st AD not being in Europe.
“Seeing it leave Germany is bittersweet,” she said as she recalled a wall that the division painted in Kuwait depicting an Oktoberfest scene with “Not this year” jokingly written across it.
The 1st AD headquarters will be joining subordinate brigades that already call El Paso home.
“It’s time for that to occur, so that the headquarters can be with the other 14,000 to 16,000 (1st AD) soldiers,” said Maj. Gen. Terry A. Wolff, 1st AD commander and deputy USAREUR commander.
Only about 120 soldiers currently with the division headquarters will stay with 1st AD in Texas, according to division spokesman Capt. John Rebello.
“Some of the moves were voluntary, however the majority of the moves were made for the needs of the Army,” Rebello wrote in an e-mail.
Wolff will hand over the reins of 1st AD to Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard on May 24. Pittard will also continue serving as the base’s commander, according to Veronica Landry Johnson, of the Fort Bliss command team.
The 1st Armored Division was activated in 1940 and participated in the Africa and European theaters during World War II, where it became the first American armored division to see combat. The division has a rich history in Europe, including protecting the border during the Cold War, as well as peacekeeping roles in Bosnia and Kosovo. More recently, the division headquarters has deployed multiple times to Iraq.