By Ed Brock
Celebrating the 30-year history of the United States Army Forces Command is more than just a matter of pomp and ceremony as far as Army Maj. Brad Gericke is concerned.
"I'm an amateur historian," said Gericke who lives in Stockbridge. "So I think it's admirable and fitting that we look back on our past and draw from our experiences."
Gericke was in the crowd of soldiers and civilians gathered Wednesday at Fort McPherson in Atlanta to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Forces Command (FORSCOM) with past commanders, a cake and a few soldiers who recently returned home from Iraq.
"(FORSCOM) played a big role in our going to Baghdad with all the briefings, letting us know what our mission was," said 1st Sgt. Terry Jackson who is stationed at Fort Benning and who provided support for the Army 110th Field Artillery Battalion.
With the smoke from the cannon fire salute still drifting over Hedekin Field, the Army Marching Band paraded past a review stand where FORSCOM commanders past and present sat. Their families, other soldiers and civilians sat in nearby tents.
When the band played "When the Army Goes Rolling Along," also known as the Army Song, the civilians chimed in along with the uniformed personnel.
FORSCOM's mission is to oversee the training and combat readiness of all active Army and Army Reserve forces on the continental United States. It was activated on July 1, 1973 as part of a reorganization of the Army's major commands in the wake of the Vietnam War.
"Many questioned whether the Army could survive the Vietnam War as an institution," said current FORSCOM Commander Gen. Larry Ellis.
Since its inception, FORSCOM has been a driving force in making the Army what it is today and has proven itself in situations from Grenada to the current war in Iraq, Ellis said.
Among FORSCOM'S accomplishment is the integration of active forces with Army National Guard and Reserve forces.
"You, the members of FORSCOM, past and present, have made the difference," Ellis said. "I can't wait to see the next 30 years and what it might bring."
In every event in which FORSCOM has sent troops, whether it is to assist in disaster relief or combat, the troops have been ready, Gericke said.
"That's really a testament to phenomenal leadership and great soldiers and non-commissioned officers," Gericke said.
FORSCOM deployed 65,000 active duty troops and mobilized almost 150,000 Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Jackson said he returned in July from his tour of duty in that operation.
"It was very, very challenging once the war started, it was fast-paced," Jackson said.
His unit was often slowed in the opening stages of the Iraqi invasion when their vehicles bogged down in the desert sand.
"Once we got far enough in to get on the highway it was straight forward and the last stop was Baghdad," Jackson said.
Fort McPherson and its sub-facility Fort Gillem in Forest Park employ a total of 2,267 active duty personnel, 3,866 Reserve personnel and 4,952 civilians. In terms of payroll, tuition and education, school impact funds and local contracts they contribute about $584.7 million to the local economy.