2-6 Cavalry folding flag, unit at Illesheim
Stars and Stripes June 28, 2003
ILLESHEIM, Germany — Less than six weeks after a delirious homecoming from war in Iraq, V Corps’ 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment folded its flag Thursday.
The squadron’s 150 members stood stiffly at attention on the Illesheim Army Airfield Tarmac as the squadron commander, Lt. Col. Scott Thompson, and the command sergeant major, 1st Sgt. Homer Yates, rolled up the banner.
“It is a sad day indeed to see the end of something good,” said Thompson, choking back tears as he said goodbye to his troops. “We are consoled by the fact that it is only temporary.”
The 2-6 Cavalry’s flag will be unfurled Sept. 12 at Fort Hood, Texas, where the unit will re-form with a new crop of soldiers. They will go through about one year of training on the newer AH-64D Longbow Apache, an upgrade of the 1980s-vintage AH-64A Apache the unit has flown since 1986. The Longbow model features digital cockpit instruments as well as a souped-up radar and missile system.
The unit will return to Illesheim in the late summer of 2004, said Maj. Carl Coffman, the 2-6 Cavalry’s executive officer. Only about half a dozen soldiers, led by 1st Sgt. Mike Reynolds, will stay in Illesheim to care for the unit’s land vehicles and to receive supplies.
Thursday’s simple ceremony honored a unit whose history dates to 1861, when cavalry troops rode horses instead of flying helicopters. It won its first of 16 Civil War battle ribbons in Union Gen. George McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign against the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., in 1862. Later, the unit fought in 10 Indian campaigns, the Spanish-American War, the Philippine rebellion, against Pancho Villa in Mexico, World War II and the 1991 Persian Gulf War, according to the Globalsecurity.org Web site.
Most recently, the unit added a battle streamer in Iraq when its Apaches supported the 3rd Infantry Division attack on Baghdad, Iraq, through the Karbala Gap. In three days of action, 2-6 Cavalry pilots flew 260 combat hours.
“None of this could have been done without a soldier driving, flying or fueling,” Thompson said. “You are the team. Be proud of what you’ve done, and the legacy you leave behind.”
Representatives of Boeing, which builds the Apaches, gave medals to every unit member and spouse, and the soldiers applauded the efforts of their families back home during the recent war. The ceremony wrapped up with the playing of the traditional cavalry song, “Garry Owen,” and the official Army song, “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”
The casing of the colors closely followed the unit’s return from war. The 2-6 Cavalry was the first V Corps unit sent to Iraq last September, and the first to come home in May. After a long deployment of training and combat, its members have been no less busy since returning home, Coffman said.
After months of uncertainty about their return date, almost all the soldiers and officers had to immediately begin making plans to move themselves and their families to a new post. To complicate matters, their original transfer orders all had been canceled because of the Army’s stop-movement order. Some still don’t know for sure where their next assignment will be.
“We got back from Iraq, and it’s never really slowed down,” Coffman said. “Everything culminated at once, with everyone leaving. It’s been as difficult as going to war.”
Some of the soldiers said it has been hard to see their unit and their friends go away so quickly.
“We knew it had to happen, but it’s a shame it had to happen all at once,” said Capt. Joel Magsig, 31, the Alpha Troop commander, who left a few hours later for his next duty station.
First Sgt. Jose Santiago, 44, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, said there are few bonds as tight as those forged in war.
“You get so close — it’s a patriotic feeling, I can’t describe it,” he said. “I’d rather not say goodbye. I’d rather say, ‘See you later.’”