FORT MCCOY, Wis. –
The ground rumbled, the glass shook, and the air became thick with smoke as cannons fired a 21-gun salute to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 88th Regional Support Command, here, at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
The 88th RSC was first stood up during World War I as part of the National Army. Then named, the 88th Division was constituted on Aug. 5, 1917 and organized at Camp Dodge, Iowa on Aug. 25, 1917. Less than a year later, the 88th Division deployed to France from July 1918 to September 1918. From there the division participated in the Alsace Campaign and received their first streamer. The division returned home to Camp Dodge and was demobilized on June 10, 1919 and reconstituted in the Organized Reserve on June 24, 1921. The 88th Division remained there until 1942.
“It is my honor to pay tribute to the men and women of this great division,” said Maj. General Patrick J. Reinert, Commanding General, 88th Regional Support Command.
More than 100 leaders and Soldiers attended the ceremony recognizing the century-long lineage, and witnessing a lineage that they were very proud of.
“My view is this is the coolest institution in America,” explained LTG Charles D. Luckey, Chief of the Army Reserve and Commanding General, United States Army Reserve. “This is awesome,” said Luckey about the ceremony that took place.
The ceremony connected with more than just Soldiers and members of the 88th RSC; it hit home with others who call Fort McCoy home, such as the students of Fort McCoy’s Challenge Academy who helped the 88th RSC prepare for the ceremony.
“It is the military service that started the Challenge Academy, which is helping me better myself,” explained Jarrod Love, squad leader of First Squad, Bravo One, Challenge Academy. “It gives me a sense of achievement giving back, and helping (the 88th RSC) set up. It’s amazing to be able to see the 88th (RSC) has existed a hundred years and is still going strong; it’s mind blowing to me.”
Also in attendance was a veteran recognized as the oldest serving veteran from the 88th RSC. Bruce T. Abbott served with the 88th Infantry Division during World War II as mortarman. It was because of their combat skills and the blue patch the Soldiers wore, the Germans took to calling Soldiers from the 88th Infantry Division Blue Devils.
“I think it’s pretty remarkable,” said Abbott about seeing the 88th RSC still proudly bearing the same blue patch he wore more than 70 years ago.
During the 88th Infantry Division’s campaigns in World War II they suffered more than 15,000 casualties and only 3,000 of the original division remained. The 88th Division earned 522 Silver Stars and three Medal of Honor recipients: Capt. Robert E Roeder, Staff Sgt. Charles W. Shea, and Staff Sgt. Manuel Mendoza who is credited with single-handedly breaking up a German counter attack.
After WWII, the 88th Division remained in northeast Italy conducting peacekeeping operations near the port city of Trieste, Italy. The operations were to keep the Italians and Yugoslavs from fighting over the disputed region. The 88th RSC was inactivated on Oct. 24, 1947 at Leghorn, Italy.
Two decades later on Dec. 26, 1967 the 88th Army Reserve Command was activated in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1996 the 88th ARCOM saw major change and became the 88th RSC. In 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 88th RSC was re-designated as the Regional Readiness Command.
One of the units that fell under the 88th RRC was the 724th Transportation Company out of Bartonville, Illinois. On April 9, 2004, the unit was ambushed by insurgents. For his actions during the attack Spc. Jeremy Church became the first Army Reserve Soldier to receive the Silver Star in Iraq. The 88th RRC was inactivated in 2009, while the 88th RSC of today was activated in 2008.
“Although the name, mission, and location of the 88th (RSC) has changed many times over the course of a century,” explained Reinert. “The spirit of the Blue Devil is still just as strong as it was when Camp Dodge was bustling with young Doughboys.”
The ceremony concluded with the unveiling of a new plaque in honor of the 88th RSC’s “first century of service.”
“The plaque pays tribute to a century of service,” said Reinert. “Although it should read to our first century of service, as the Blue Devil Soldiers stand ready to meet and overcome the next 100 years of challenges.”
The 88th RSC proudly serves as a member of America’s Army Reserve Forces generating combat ready units, ensuring they are ready to fight fast and continue the march down the road to awesome.