24th Infantry Division reactivated

by Daniel Hobson

FORT RILEY, Kan.(Army News Service, June 11, 1999)--The colors of the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) are flying once again.

During a ceremony June 5 at the Cavalry Parade Field, Fort Riley, that post became headquarters of the division and in doing so, moved to the forefront of a new Army concept of integrated active/reserve component forces.

"In front of us is the unveiling of a very historic event, the building of our Army of the future, a reorganization of the Army as you see it," said Gen. Thomas Schwartz, the commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command, during the ceremony.

The reactivated division consists of three Army National Guard brigades from Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. As many as 12,00 soldiers are assigned to the three brigades. More than a hundred active-duty soldiers will be stationed at Fort Riley with the division headquarters.

Almost 2,000 thousand people attended the ceremony. They watched as retired Lt. Gen. Joseph DeFrancisco -- who commanded the division when it was inactivated in 1996 at Fort Stewart, Ga. -- uncased the division colors.

The ceremony also included a 17-gun salute by the the 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery, firing 105-mm howitzers, and a cavalry charge across the parade field by the Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard.

Many of the spectators who came to Fort Riley were veterans of wars the division has fought. They came from all parts of the country. Warren Avery, who fought in the Korea War with the division's Toro leaf patch on his shoulder, traveled to Kansas from Connecticut to see the division reactivated.

The division has a distinguished history, Avery said, adding that he's glad that the unit is back serving the country again.

The ceremony was also attended by Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and two Kansas representatives, Jim Ryun and Todd Tiahrt.

The ceremony made Fort Riley the home of a division headquarters for the first time since the famous "Big Red One," the 1st Infantry Division, left the post in 1996. Although the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division remains at Fort Riley, the division itself is now headquartered in Germany.

Maj. Gen. Freddy McFarren, the commander of Fort Riley and the 24th Infantry Division, said the importance of Fort Riley to the nation and to the Army will continue into the next century.

"Since 1850, this post has been training soldiers," McFarren said. We've trained soldiers for the Indian War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and all the major conflicts of this century.

"Another page of history is being written for Fort Riley. To the soldiers that stand before you and to anybody who is listening, I will tell you that we will be ready when our country calls us to action," McFarren said.