News | June 14, 2017

Employees gather for joint celebration of Army birthday

By Dianne Ryder

McNamara Headquarters Complex tenant agencies celebrated the Army’s 242nd birthday June 13 in the HQC auditorium. This year’s theme, “Over There,” harks back to another commemoration – the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I.

Following a brief video presentation, Defense Threat Reduction Agency Deputy Director Navy Rear Adm. Scott Jerabek introduced special guests and the keynote speaker, Army Maj. Gen. Julie Bentz, vice director of the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization.

“You know you’re really joint when you’ve got a sailor hosting the Army birthday,” Jerabek quipped. “But it’s a true honor to introduce Gen. Bentz.”

Bentz expressed appreciation to all of the active duty soldiers, reservists and Army veterans present in the audience as well as other service members and civilians.

She had all active duty and retired soldiers stand and directed those who had not joined the Army prior to Sept. 11, 2001, to sit. Bentz then asked the rest of those standing to sit as she pinpointed historical moments of the past four decades.

Several service members were still standing throughout the 1970s events Bentz highlighted.

Finally, she asked, “How about before a man walked on the moon in 1969?” All took their seats except one soldier, who had joined the Army in 1968. “Happy birthday to our oldest Army veteran here,” Bentz said, as the audience applauded.

Bentz talked about the history of the Army and said the United States’ involvement in World War I was a defining moment for the Army.  

“America stood up for freedom and self-government,” she said. “And through that transformative experience, our Army – the United States Army – became the world’s most lethal, adaptive and competent land force in history.”

Bentz also noted that World War I was a time of great military growth and professionalism. She referred to historian Libby O’Connell’s quote about soldiers who rode into war on horseback, but flew out in airplanes.

“The soldiers’ experiences fighting as the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I would give rise to the leaders who would see the country through World War II – leaders who would shape not only our Army, but America’s worldwide military posture for decades to come,” she said.

Even a century later, the Army is still “over there,” Bentz said.

“We have 184,000 soldiers serving in 140 countries around the world, including members of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization,” she said.

The Army’s forward presence as the premier land force reassures U.S. allies and deters aggressors, Bentz said.

“Today, too, the American soldier trains and deploys, engages and destroys the enemies of the United States in combat operations,” she said.

Bentz said the total Army force includes not only active duty service members, but also reservists, National Guard members and Department of the Army civilians.

“They stand ready to defend this great nation – and we won’t come back until it’s over, over there.”

The event culminated with the oldest and youngest soldiers joining the keynote speaker to slice the cake using a ceremonial sword.

After the ceremony, employees were invited to watch the U.S. Army Silent Drill Team perform in the HQC cafeteria. The official Army birthday is June 14, 1775.