End comes to famed cavalry unit, Army’s stay in Büdingen
European edition, Wednesday, April 25, 2007
BüDINGEN, Germany — They’re down, but they’re not out.
The 1st Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment, the oldest and most-decorated cavalry squadron in the U.S. Army, cased its colors Tuesday in a ceremony at Armstrong Barracks, a longtime home for U.S. cavalry units in Germany.
But sometime soon — nobody’s sure exactly when — the unit should be reactivated at Fort Bliss, Texas.
“This inactivation will be temporary because you cannot keep a good unit down like this,” Col. Darryl A. Williams, commander of 1st Armored Division’s Division Artillery, said during the ceremony.
The ceremony, the second inactivation for the squadron in its 174-year history, also signaled the end of the U.S. Army in this sleepy valley town.
“Today is about history, traditions and the future,” Lt. Col. Matthew McKenna, the squadron’s commander, said in a speech during the ceremony. “We are a part of history today.”
The history of the unit — a story that took about five minutes of narration during the ceremony — began in 1833 and included involvement in every major U.S. war since, with the exception of World War I.
Most recently the squadron deployed to Iraq in 2003 and served a 16-month tour during which it lost three soldiers, including its top enlisted soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. Eric F. Cooke, who died in combat on Christmas Eve.
Since returning from Iraq in July 2004, the unit has served as U.S. Army Europe’s Immediate Reaction Force, deploying to South Korea, Romania, Bulgaria and the United Kingdom for training exercises. When its members weren’t abroad, they were training here in Germany.
The job kept them busy, but it also kept them out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which many troops were eager to experience.
“A lot of the soldiers, yeah, they wanted a combat patch,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tony Newburey. “They wanted a combat tour with this squadron, and a lot of that has to do with the unit’s history.”
The history of the U.S. Army in Büdingen is another story. For the past 62 years, soldiers have walked the streets here as neighbors, becoming de-facto citizens, sharing Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fasching and other celebrations.
Before squadron members deployed to Iraq in 2003 they slogged through floods with the townsfolk, sandbagging the historic parts of the town from rising water.
“Now it’ll be just us here,” said Maurice Roberts, a U.S. Army veteran who settled in the town after serving here with another cavalry unit in the 1960s. He’s one of about a dozen former U.S. soldiers, including a couple of Korean War vets and a World War II vet, who’ve settled in the valley over the years.
Roberts stayed for a number of reasons. The German girl he met is one.
McKenna summed up the rest of it best:
“I have been stationed in many places during the last 18 years, and I can tell you that no other city in the world cares more about their U.S. Army units than the city of Büdingen.”
As a last hurrah, the city is throwing a going-away party for the squadron — a unit of about 600 soldiers — the first weekend in May.
“Sixty-two years is a long time together, and we will always remember the kindness of the city of Büdingen,” McKenna said.