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  The Black Metal Arch

Reproduced from the speech given by Col. Holwick

Colonel Holwick - 2007 OCS reunionFellow soldiers, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen…

First of all, it is an honor for me to welcome each of you back to the united States Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon. I am especially pleased to have this opportunity to welcome those of you who are graduates of the Signal Corps Officer Candidate School at Fort Monmouth, during World War II and the Korean War, as well as those who graduated from the Signal OCS program here at Fort Gordon during the Vietnam conflict.

As the  Army’s largest communication training site, Fort Gordon has gained national prominence as a center for information technology, instruction and development.

In addition, Fort Gordon is a fast growing center of intelligence operations with a deployable MI Brigade, the 116th MI Group, NSA Georgia and 1,000 sailors assigned to the Naval Information Operations Command.

Today there are over 25,000 people working and living here, making us the ninth largest town in the nation’s ninth most populous state. Our growth and growing importance to America’s military is a direct result of the efforts of all the Signaleers who proceeded us—who clearly demonstrated the importance of communications in support of the war fighter.

This gathering is truly an historic and significant occasion. We honor today those who set aside their personal dreams and ambitions to defeat the fascist threat during World War II, defended Korea from its northern aggressors, fought in the jungles of Vietnam, and those who ended up at the sharp end of America’s spear as part of the armed forces that contained and defeated the vast Soviet threat of the Cold War.

All of you represent the true spirit of America and her military, with an undeniable devotion to freedom, and unmatched sense of patriotism, and an unbreakable will to preserve our American ideals.

You served during times of tremendous turmoil for our Army and for our nation. You OCS graduates left a lasting legacy of unmatched dedication and selfless service.

Twenty five years ago I found myself facing a black metal arch at a place “far across the Chatohocee, to the uptoe at what was to become my alma mater, Benning School for Boys.”

It must have been a particularly cold day because I do remember a slight shaking in the knee before entering the general rigors of Officer Candidate School.

Forty one years have passed since the first OCS Companies were called up to meet the growing demand for Officers to lead a rapidly expanding Army for World War II; and forty one years of a constantly evolving OCS program that at one time consisted of eight distinct branches operating at Forts and Camps across the country.

Since being reactivated in 1951 in response to the invasion of South Korea, OCS has continuously expanded and contracted to meet the needs of the Army. In 1973 the new Branch Immaterial OCS at Fort Benning, Georgia, stood up to replace the Branch Specific Programs, and it remains there today, supplying fully trained Officers to the Army’s sixteen branches.

Etched in my mind of that first day was the TAC Officer, saying “Holwick, fourth platoon—you’re Signal. And Signal I have remained.

Passing through that solitary metal arch on that cold day was not just a step into a new school, but a step toward becoming part of the magnificent legacy of Army OCS. A program that commissioned thousands of Second Lieutenants, 41 Medal of Honor winners, and such great leaders as:

Senator Bob Dole

Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger

Secretary of the Army John O. March

Lieutenant General Robert Gray

Lieutenant General Emmett Paige Jr.

Mort Walker… who brought us Beetle Bailey

An OCS legacy which also includes Second Lieutenant Chan Bergen—a 1942 candidate who after being trained as one of the Army’s pioneering mountain ski troops in Colorado ended up leading troops in the steamy jungles of Guadalcanal and through the Pacific Theater. The same Chan Bergen who ten years later would become a lifelong friend of my father, a direct commissioned Officer, and the same Chan Bergen who wrote my first letter of recommendation for OCS on his magazine stationary from the Western Horseman. There are thousands of Chan Bergens out there, who answered the nation’s call, and I’m facing an audience of them today.

I’m certain that many of you have conflicting emotions in thinking back to those days, now one, two or three generations past. Recollections that might also evoke many painful memories, as well as remembrances of profound sacrifice, enlightened leadership and great courage.

Your experiences and your leadership led to vital changes that resurrected our Army into “America’s Army,” the best Army in our nation’s history and the best in the world.

Today’s soldiers and all of our fellow citizens owe a debt of gratitude for your invaluable role in making those necessary changes, for enduring those troubling times, and for your patriotic, unwavering service through the years that followed.

You and your classmates led us through the darkest of times and threats, continued to be our greatest advocates and supporters after leaving our ranks, and act as shining role models for our soldiers today, who are fighting another necessary conflict against the plague of terrorism.

Today’s memorial service gives all of us an opportunity to remember those classmates, friends and great soldiers who are no longer with us and unable to experience this sense of appreciation. Their achievements, sacrifices and unwavering patriotism should, and will, never be forgotten. That is why this is such an important and necessary gathering… and why I am so honored to be included.

As President Calvin Coolidge once observed, “The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.” As time passes, we must continue to ensure that all of our defenders are never forgotten. They deserve no less…

Again, thank you for allowing me to be a part of this memorable occasion…

… you are truly special and you have made this a very special time for us all. Thank you for gracing Fort Gordon with your presence. I’m proud to share your legacy as an OCS graduate, a 90 day wonder, or a shake and bake Lieutenant, and most importantly… an OCS alumni. Like each of you I’m most proud of graduating from the last really tough OCS class and those who I shared those rigors with.

Again, thank you for giving me the honor to speak at today’s ceremony. Along with our fallen brothers and sisters please keep our service members in your prayers as they defend our nation around the world in this global War on Terrorism. May God bless you and your families, our fallen comrades and God Bless America.


OCS Memorial Ceremony - October 2007                      OCS Memorial Ceremony - October 2007


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