Thursday, July 13, 2017 –
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. — The doughboys marched off of the parade field, with the colors held high, and all in attendance watched until the Soldiers disappeared from sight. The 85th Support Command color guard team, wearing World War I-era uniforms, were one of several components for the 85th Support Command’s centennial celebration reflecting on the unit’s 100-year history.
The 85th SPT CMD celebrated its centennial on June 9, 2017 in Arlington Heights, Illinois, immediately following their relinquishment of command.
“Every unit has a story,” explained Maj. Gen. Tracy A. Thompson, Deputy Commanding General for Support, United States Army Reserve. “But not too many of them have the storied history of the “Custer Division”.”
The 85th SPT CMD initially stood up as the 85th Infantry Division and was nicknamed the “Custer Division”. The division was constituted on August 5, 1917, in preparation for World War I, at Camp Custer, Michigan. After a year of training the division departed to England. Along the way, they were re-routed and part of the division was sent to Archangel Russia, to fight beside the White Army in the Russian Civil War against Bolshevik forces as part of the Polar Bear Expedition.
In January of 1944, the division continued its legacy going to Casablanca, French Morocco during World War II. In April 1944, they were put into action in Italy north of the Garigliano River, facing the Gustav Line, and held defensive positions for a month. After breaking through the Gustav Line the division made its way to Rome where they were relieved in June of 1944. During their World War II campaigns, the 85th Infantry Division suffered more than 7,000 casualties, nearly 2,000 of them killed in action. In those same campaigns, four “Custermen” received the Medal of Honor.
In 1945, the division deactivated and was reactivated again in Chicago on Feb. 19, 1947 in the U.S. Army Reserve as a training division. In 1983, the division was moved to its current location in Arlington Heights, Illinois. In 2007, the two-star training division was inactivated and a year later in 2008 the 85th Support Command emerged working hand-in-hand with First Army, ensuring all their Army Reserve Soldiers are trained and ready to deploy at a moments notice.
“The lineage of the 85th (Support Command) is truly amazing,” said Col. Robert S. Cooley, Deputy Commanding Officer, 85th Support Command. “We are a unique unit in the Army Reserve command with our First Army partners. Our mission to train and validate Soldiers that go down range is a pretty amazing responsibility.”
The history of the 85th SPT CMD is one that many Soldiers carry with pride and hope to see move into the foreseeable future.
“The 85th division has a very storied past not only from World War I and World War II but through today,” explained Command Sgt. Maj. Vernon I. Perry III, Command Sergeant Major, 85th Support Command. “The Soldiers of today are carrying the traditions and lineage of those past Soldiers forward. I wish the 85th a proud and long future.”
Perry said with the ongoing climate of tension in today’s world, he believes the 85th SPT CMD will continue to be a key part in preparing Soldiers to do whatever is needed in accomplishing their missions.
The centennial anniversary of the 85th SPT CMD was shared in the relinquishment of command ceremony for Brig. Gen. Frederick R. Maiocco Jr., Commanding General, 85th Support Command. Maiocco served three years as the commander of the 85th Support Command.