The 3rd Infantry Division command team, Maj. Gen. Lee Quintas and Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Hendrex, and 27 soldiers selected from throughout the division took part in the World War I centennial commemoration in France, May 23-29.
The U.S. Center of Military History organized the centennial with the goal of honoring the soldiers who participated in the war and marks 100 years since the nation’s involvement in the conflict. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd infantry divisions participated in the remembrance. The units fought in campaigns in the French countryside.
The 3rd ID soldiers received daily historical tours to learn the extensive and storied sast of the division, visited the site of the division’s first two Medal of Honor recipients.
Most importantly, they also learned how the unit became known as the Marne Division.
“This week you will learn a lot about the unit’s history and lineage and we ask you to keep an open mind and be respectful to the sacrifices those who came before us made,” Hendrex said. “We are here to honor them.”
Dr. Brian Newman with CMH was assigned as the division historian, and he shared his extensive knowledge of the 3rd ID efforts in the second Battle of the Marne.
The weeklong events started with a historical terrain walk and guided tour—the guide was personallyselected by Newman-- to better tell the story of the division’s actions during World War I.
First stop was the city of Chateau-Thierry where the soldiers visited the American Monument, the 3rd ID monument, walked along the Marne River, and visited some of the defensive positions of the 7th Machine Gun Battalion responsible for securing the bridges crossing over the Marne River.
“I wanted to orient the Soldiers to the area and show the defense of Chateau- Thierry by the 7th Machine Gun Battalion as we walked along the north side of the Marne River,” Newman said.
After a walking tour through the city of Chateau- Thierry, the next stop was the city of Fossoy. The soldiers were brought to an expansive field with lush green grass and several farms. To their backs were hills overlooking the meadow below.
With a map of the area and the view, Newman talked the soldiers through the multiple defensive lines of the division.
“I chose this location to show the Soldiers the unit’s location south of the Marne, and the defensive system they will implement,” said Newman. “I wanted to set the stage for the next location.”
The tour pressed on to the town of Moulins, which was the zone of the 38th Infantry Regiment commanded by Col. Ulysses Grant McAlexander, and a hike up Moulins Ridge.
Newman said Moulins Ridge is considered the “Rock of the Marne.”
McAlexander’s decision to hold his defensive position and not withdraw earned him the reference to the rock, which the division eventually adapted at its motto.
“When I heard we where hiking to the ‘Rock of the Marne’ I was excited,” said Staff Sgt. Trevor Crust, small group leader assigned to Fort Stewart’s Noncommissioned Officer Academy. “The hike up the ridge was a surreal experience. To think I’m walking the same path soldiers 100 years before I did was humbling.”
At the Rock of the Marne, the soldiers gathered around a map depicting the unit’s defensive lines, while overlooking the scene below.
Newman explained the 38th IR actions on the ridge and significant advantage in battle the position offered.
“I was so inspired at the ‘Rock of the Marne,’” Crust said. “Sometime as soldiers we can lose site of why we do this and the sacrifices others have made before us and it really put everything into perspective. The CG and sergeant major being there gave me a real appreciation for the unit and its heritage.”
The 3rd ID conducted an historic event while at the “Rock of the Marne;” three of the recent winners of the Sullivan Cup where promoted there. The cup recognizes the world’s best tank crew.
“I don’t think they will ever forget the day they got promoted on the actual Rock of the Marne,” Hendrex said.
Cpl. Justin Harris, gunner, was promoted to sergeant; and Pvt. Brandon Zacher, loader, and Pvt. Dekken Sanders, driver, were promoted to private first class by the division command team. All are with the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team.
“I’m happy to be here and serve with my crew,” Zacher said. “I want to thank my parents for always pushing me to strive for my best.
Before leaving the historic site and adding to the day’s significant events, Quintas wrote the date, his call sign and his name on his own subdued 3rd ID patch and placed it under a rock found at the top of the ridge.