Last Thursday, I entered a base of the U.S. Army for the first time as a military parent. We spent the day at Ft. Benning in Columbus, Georgia. Our second lieutenant graduated from his Armor Basic Officer Leader Course (ABOLC).
As we approached the entrance of Ft. Benning, the signs pointed visitors to a gate on the left. The guard at the gate asked for the drivers licenses for everyone over 18 in the car. Our 20-year-old son had left his wallet at home. The guard informed us, he is a former drill sergeant and asked our son if he is in the Army. Taylor answered “No sir.” After he told our son never to leave the house without ID, he let us through. Taylor breathed a little easier as we left the entrance gate.
To get to the new Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE) building, we drove a few miles passing lots of construction. Ft. Benning is going through a huge expansion since the Armor branch was moved there from Ft. Knox as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). I knew the base was big, but driving along I realized just how big the base really is. My son told me it is bigger than the state of Rhode Island where his paternal grandmother lives.
We passed a golf course, a school, housing units and a gas station. Our daughter who had never been on a military base was surprised to see it is like it’s own city. We approached the new Maneuver Center of Excellence building and could see training towers in the distance. I was told to look for a “massive tank” by a Staff Sergeant who sent me directions. The tank was right in front of the new building. We saw plenty of second lieutenants in their dress uniforms, complete with Stetson covers, arriving in the parking lot.
Our officer was waiting for us in front of the building with his father and step-mother who had arrived a little earlier. Wow! Did he look handsome in his new uniform. Of course we all started snapping photos, much to Nelson’s dismay. We told him he just had to deal with it today.
The Facebook group for the 2-16 Cavalry “Saber Squadron”//Armor Basic Officer Leader Course posted a press release the day before graduation stating that Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia would speak at graduation. This is the first ABOLC graduating class at Fort Benning, so the local press also turned out in force to cover the ceremony.
We took our seats in the auditorium. Nelson told my husband, photographer Stanley Leary, he could move forward to take photos when he walked across the stage. Nelson was given the “Ironman Physical Fitness Award” for having the highest physical fitness score in Lightening Troop
As we waited for the graduation to start, I had fun watching the various family members, officers and staff file in. It struck me how many of these young officers were married with very small children.
It was a very nice ceremony. Governor Deal gave a nice speech and the presentation of awards began. It was such a thrill to see our second lieutenant walk across the stage to shake the hands of the Governor, the Commander and other officers. When the ceremony ended we had to all take turns getting our photo taken with the award winning officer, much to his chagrin. He did clown around a bit with one of his fellow graduates of The Citadel and ABOLC grad, Evan Minshew. You can see the pride on all the faces in those photos.
Before we went in to the restaurant for a late lunch, Chelle and I presented Nelson with our graduation gift, a comic book, “Iron Man Is Born” and the two Iron Man DVD’s. I knew he appreciated the humor.
Our second lieutenant gave up his spot in Ranger School. He is now waiting to hear where he will go next. As for me, I’m reading up on the history of the Armor branch, and learning why they wear Stetsons and the traditions around who wears the gold or silver spurs. I’ve also read up on Garryowen and learned why we stood up and clapped to the song as it was played at the end of the ceremony.
Filed under: Military families, U.S. Army Tagged: | 2-16 Cavalry "Saber Squadron", ABOLC, Armor BOLC, BRAC, Cavalry, Dorie Griggs, Fort Benning, Governor Nathan Deal, Iron Man, Ironman Physical Fitness Award, Lightening Troop 1-16 CAV, Maneuver Center of Excellence, military families, postaday2011, Ranger School, Spurs, Stetson, The Citadel The Military College of South Carolina, U.S. Army, United States Army