Banquet Address

On September 26, 2003, Branson Missouri, at the traditional banquet of the 2nd Cml Mortar Bn Assn, LTC William E. King delivered the after-dinner speech on the same day that the Association dedicated its memorial at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. LTC King (no relation to the deceased member of the Association), has served with the 2nd Cml Bn at Fort Hood that carries the Battalion's lineage and, at the time of his talk, was on duty in the G8 section of the Army General Staff in the Pentagon, where he worked on various aspects of CBRN systems and programs (Chemical Biological, Radiological, Nuclear). This is the full text of his speech.

The Legacy of the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion Lives On

Gentlemen, Soldiers, Veterans of the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, thank you for inviting me to share in your Memorial Dedication. I consider it a great honor and more than a little bit humbling to be allowed to address my heroes at this reunion. Yes, I said my “heroes.” You! Men who gave their all in selfless service to our nation in foreign lands like Germany, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Korea. In those Korean battles and campaigns like the UN Offensive, CCF Intervention, First UN Counteroffensive, CCF Spring Offensive, UN Summer-Fall Offensive, Korea Summer-Fall 1952, and Second and Third Korean Winters. Sixty-one Red Dragon soldiers making the ultimate sacrifice with their lives for America.

But, in addition to my appreciation, on behalf of every Dragon soldier on active and reserve duty today, I am here to thank you for the legacy you have given to us.

What is your legacy? It is the example of courage, selfless devotion to duty, and battlefield wizardry you have set for us to follow. I am here to assure you that at every gathering of Dragon soldiers worldwide, your story is told. Our heritage is read aloud for all present to hear – to inspire the young, to honor the old, and to remember the fallen.

Ladies of the Red Dragons, lest you think I have overlooked your contribution, I need to thank you as well. Thank-you for the support you have given and the sacrifices you have made for the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion. I know how hard it is to keep the home fires burning when your soldier is called away. Thank you for the legacy you have given our soldiers and their families.

We are proud to be Red Dragons. It is an honorable service. When I was a boy, I loved to read books about the Korean conflict. I was fascinated by the courage, moral fortitude, and selfless service that being a soldier demanded. I read all about the charges of the infantry, the power of the air cavalry, and the exploits of the special forces. The tactics, strategies, and heroics all fueled my imagination and filled me with a burning desire to be part of that brotherhood. But, although I don't remember exactly how or when it happened, sometime in my boyhood, before I became a soldier myself, even before I became a junior ROTC cadet in high school, I knew. Whether it was something I had read or something I had heard, something touched my soul and I knew I wanted to be nothing less than a Chemical Corps soldier. Was this your legacy calling me?

We are proud to be Red Dragons. We are the wizards of the battlefield and revered for our skills. The Army couldn't and wouldn't survive without us to protect them from the lethal elements with which the enemy would regale us. Do you remember, at the end of the Viet Nam War in the mid 1970s, the Dragon was almost put out to pasture like an old, lame cavalry horse? Retired, declared obsolete, ready for extinction. Some of the planners and force structure designers couldn't see the need for the Chemical Corps. They called it archaic, superfluous, useless, and irrelevant in the modern army. They talked of disbanding the Corps. Our mission during that dreary time was virtually non existent. But while men talked and plotted the death of the Dragon, the Dragon wrapped itself into a cobalt chrysalis, slept, and dreamt – dreamt of smoke and flame and heroes like you.

The Dragon's metamorphosing sleep – a sleep during which the Dragon was inspired and transformed from a beast which merely roared with fire and smoke into a winged creature which is soaring boldly and regally into the 21st century.

I know this is starting to sound like fantasy and science fiction, but let me give you some real science facts about today's Red Dragon battalion. Smoke isn't just smoke anymore. The 2nd Chemical Battalion is the first unit of our Corps equipped with the most modernized mechanized and motorized smoke and obscurant capabilities. With its current M58 Mechanized Smoke System, or Wolf, and the M56 Wheeled Smoke System, or Coyote, it provides critical smoke and obscurant coverage for maneuver forces of the III Armored Corps and its Armored and Mechanized Divisions as they close with and destroy the enemy in direct fire engagements.

It also provides this critical force protection battlefield enhancement smoke and obscurant capability to essential command and control, logistical and intelligence centers. Today's smoke not only blinds the enemy and his sensors in the visual range (what the enemy can see with his naked eye) but also blinds him and his sensors in the infra-red (heat sensing) range, and in the near future will expand to the millimeter-wave range as well. In other words, the enemy can't detect anything through our smoke.

As Red Dragon smoke soldiers, we were the first unit on Fort Hood alerted for deployment during the 1991 Desert Shield/Storm War. Just as the Red Dragons so proudly served our nation in 1950 during the Korean War, so served the Red Dragon s in 1991. The Second Chemical Battalion deployed in Oct 1990 in direct support of the XVIII Airborne Corps rapid contingency force providing the essential smoke and decontamination capability to the 82d Airborne Division and associated Corps Support Command. Later, the Second Chemical Battalion shifted its support to the V Armored Corps and 1st Infantry Division as it moved up and assumed defensive positions along the Waddi Al Battan on the Saudi Arabian - Iraq border. Its smoke companies assumed key positions as the right flank of the 1st Infantry Division and established the coordination control point between 1st Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division. Later as the offensive kicked off, the Second Chemical Battalion was tasked organized and shifted its smoke and decontamination support to the 3d Armored Division as it led the attack north through the Republican Guard forces of the Iraqi Army. Yes, just as the Army realized and used your capabilities and soldiers at the critical points of the battles of the Korean War, Red Dragon soldiers were employed in the same manner during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. But the smoke and decontamination is only half of the unique and critical capability of the battalion today.

The Red Dragons are also leading the Corps with other key battlefield enablers like the M93A1 Armored Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Recon System, or FOX, and the M31E1 Biological Detection System, or BIDS. Both of these high tech state-of-the art recon and surveillance systems are the best in the world and are operated by Red Dragon soldiers. Our legacy lives on. These same Dragon soldiers led our Army and Marine forces into Iraq just a few months ago. This year, our chemical Dragon soldiers deployed to Operation Iraqi freedom in support of 4th ID and the US Marine Expedition Force. They were instrumental in the defeat of Saddam Hussein and his reign of terror. Why? Because we, Red Dragons, were able to give our Army, Marines, and Coalition Partners, the confidence that the enemy's evil weapons of mass destruction could be detected, nullified, and destroyed.

Did you notice the CNN broadcast when our forces arrived in Baghdad? Did you see that the first vehicle at the airport in Baghdad was a NBC Fox Recon crew? Nobody, neither Army or Marine, moved until the Dragon declared the field safe. What does that tell you about your legacy?

Our Allies asked for these crews by name to evaluate their own defenses against exposure to NBC threats. Our Dragon soldiers are in high demand throughout our nation and around the world today. Red Dragon soldiers have continued the mission of protecting our nation's soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines and no doubt will continue to do so long into the future.

Though the battlefield and enemy have changed, the demand for Dragon soldiers has not. Today your legacy continues through the Dragon soldiers within our nation in support of homeland defense, and deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq, in support of the Korean War armistice throughout South Korea, in support of NATO throughout Europe, and in support of the global war on terrorism in many more places throughout the world. Yes, your example, your standard, encourages and challenges our Dragons of today.

We are proud to be Red Dragon Soldiers. We are proud of our history. We are proud of you. Thank you again for inviting me. It has been a true honor and a memory I will always cherish. Again, on behalf of the soldiers of the US Army Chemical Corps and Red Dragon of the 2nd Chemical Battalion, thank you Red Dragons. Flammis Vincimus!

This speech was published in the October 2003 issue of The Red Dragon,
newsletter of the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion Association.

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