ADA, Okla. — In a ceremony called historic by both active-duty Army and National Guard leadership, Soldiers of the 1245th Transportation Company, Special Troops Battalion, 90th Troop Command, removed their Thunderbird patch and replaced it with that of the 1st Cavalry Division during a ceremony their armory in Ada, Oklahoma, Aug. 7.
Switching the familiar Thunderbird patch for the larger 1st Cav. Div. patch is the first step in an effort to build closer relations between active duty and National Guard forces in order to build stronger cohesion and share resources and ideas.
“This gives us a unique training opportunity,” said the company’s commander, Capt. Aaron Knott.
Knott added that the 1245th is the first Oklahoma Army National Guard unit to begin a five-year training cycle under an active-duty unit. The unit will now be assigned to the STB, 1st Cav. Div. Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cav. Div., at Fort Hood.
This year, the 1245th will begin training on the 1st Cavalry Division’s mission-essential tasks on drill weekends. In 2017, they will join the 1st Cav. Div.’s SSTB at Fort Hood for annual training.
According to Knott, the 1245th, which up until now fell under Oklahoma’s 345th Combat Service and Support Battalion, has received six extra drill days and 21 extra annual training days to meet the new training requirements.
The 1245th is a medium truck company with the ability to haul containerized and non-containerized cargo; palletized, dry and refrigerated cargo; break bulk cargo; water products and ammunition.
The trucks have palletized loading systems designed to off load supplies quickly and efficiently in a combat environment.
Even though the Oklahoma Soldiers had to give up their unit insignia, Knott said, “We are still Guardsmen.”
Col. John Zenker, 90th Troop Command brigade commander, spoke to the Soldiers in formation during the ceremony, reassuring them that even though they were donning an active-duty patch, they were still Oklahoma National Guard Soldiers.
“This is a great opportunity for you Soldiers,” Zenker said, “a great opportunity for the active-duty Soldiers and a great opportunity for the 1st Cavalry Division. In 30 to 60 years, you will know you have played an important part when you see how the Army has developed. My expectations of you are that you will continue to solve problems and do your job well, as you always do. To some of you who still have reservations, what I say is this – pull the Thunderbird patch off and put it in your pocket to keep it close.”
The Thunderbird insignia, designed by renowned Native American artist Woodrow Big Bow, was authorized for wear in 1939 and has come to represent the courage, fortitude and heroism of the 45th Infantry Division Soldiers who fought in WWII across Europe and into Berlin and endured combat through the harsh Korean winters. Later, the Oklahoma National Guard wore the insignia proudly to deployments in Bosnia, the Sinai Peninsula, Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.
According to Knott, 60 percent of his Soldiers have volunteered to deploy with the 1345th Transportation Company and the 777th Distribution Company (Aviation Support Battalion) (Assault). Both are Oklahoma National Guard units.
Guardsmen with the 1245th deployed to Desert Storm in 1990, and to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and 2008 and Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012. The unit has been awarded three Meritorious Unit Commendations Lt. Col. Darrell Morse of the 1st Cav. Div. thanked the Oklahomans for their excellent hospitality and welcomed the Oklahoma Soldiers to his unit. Before he began his speech, he called the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Band who provided the music “amazing.”
“I don’t know how you all come in only on drill weekends and manage to sound so good.” Morse called this opportunity “a partnership between National Guard, the Reserves and active-duty. It is a relationship that is unparalleled. We are one Army.”