Wednesday, June 23, 2010

63rd RRC folds flag in ceremony; commanders laud unit for illustrious history

by John D. Wagner
63rd RRC PAO

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif.—On a chilly afternoon, a crowd of Soldiers and civilians gathered in a somber mood as the 63rd Regional Readiness Command, a unit with history stretching back to combat in World War II, cased its colors in a ceremony for inactivation.

“It’s been a long and proud run for the 63rd,” said Maj. Gen. Bruce A. Casella, commander of the unit, to about 200 people. “The RRC is now out of the Soldier business.”

At the Dec. 6 ceremony, Casella and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Roberson grasped the midnight blue command flag with its “Flaming Blade” emblem. They carefully furled it up and then gently pushed it into a matching blue cloth case.

Former commanding generals stood on the podium lined with poinsettias and reminisced about leading the unit at different points of its history.

Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Robert B. Ostenberg, commander from 1991 to 1995, recalled the challenges of readying the unit for deployments after the 9-11 attacks. By the time he departed in 2005, about 6,500 Soldiers had been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan, or other areas. “All of our units met the standards,” he said. “I think we have the best Soldiers in the Army.”

Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Theodore Paulson recalled when he was a major in the late 1960s and was ordered to stand up the unit, then called the 63rd Army Reserve Command, in 90 days when it had no money. “I said, ‘yes sir,’ and then about died,” he said with a smile. Nevertheless, he and others got the unit up and running. Two former Commanding Generals were also in attendance, MG® Steven Bisset commanded from 199? To 199? and MG ® Paul E. Mock commanded from 2005-2008.

The 63rd RRC is the last of 10 such commands around the nation folding their flags. The 63rd lineage is being passed to the 63rd Regional Support Command at Moffett Field, Calif. And a new headquarters, the Army Reserve Sustainment Support Command, has started up here at Los Alamitos. The process is part of an ongoing transformation of the Army Reserve to better fit its mission in deployments overseas.

The ceremony also honored the 11 Warriors who have lost their lives during, or in connection with deployments since 9-11. Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Roberson called out each name and a bell rang to emphasize the seriousness of lost lives.

Lt. Col. Miny Wilkes, who narrated the ceremony, read as Soldiers presented peach-pink colored roses to families of three of the fallen Soldiers: Sgt. Paul Nakamura, Master Sgt. Kelly Bolor and Sgt. James Witkowski.

The flowers were “signifying our enduring appreciation and eternal gratitude for their sacrifices,” Wilkes said.

To Soldiers watching the ceremony, who had grown to know and love the 63rd, many expressed sadness at the inactivation.

“I’ve been under the 63rd RRC since 2001,” said Staff Sgt. Francisco Pena, operations NCO for the G-3 section. “It’s difficult for me to see something I’m so familiar with go away.”

"It’s going to be a transition for me,” Staff Sgt. Kenneth Winbrush, mob NCO for G-3, and who will be part of the new Sustainment Support Command. “It’s going to be like a move to a new neighborhood.”

The outgoing command began as the 63rd Infantry Division in World War II. It fought many decisive battles in including the breaking of the infamous Siegfried Line. The division was transferred to the Army Reserve in 1952 and later went through additional name changes along with a redefined mission of supporting frontline Soldiers.

As the 63rd Army Reserve Command, it had 22 units called up for duty both domestically and overseas during Operation Desert Storm. It has also deployed about 10,000 Soldiers to Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas since the 9-11 attacks.

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