Former Commander Proud To Be A Soldier

The “Big Red One” patch means something to Soldiers, said the 1st Infantry Division’s 64th commanding general.

“They believe it. It’s a part of them,” retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan said Friday at Fort Riley. “Being 1st Infantry Division Soldiers means something to them. It’s moral strength. It’s like, ‘people have done this for over 100 years, so I can do it, too.'”

Sullivan’s career of service began in 1959 when he commissioned as an armor officer. Sullivan was the 32nd Army chief of staff before retiring in 1995, and is president and chief executive officer of the Association of the United States Army – a job he took in 1998. That is 56-plus years of service to the Army – and like the Soldiers he mentioned before, it means something
to him, too.

“I’m an Army Soldier,” Sullivan said, “and I’m proud of it. And I don’t care who knows it. And I want people to know that people like me are very proud to serve them selflessly. And I worry sometimes that people just pass it off as ‘oh yeah, well you know …’ We really are dedicated to the well-being of this country and the American people, and that’s why we do what we do.”

Maj. Gen. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley commanding general, said Sullivan has spent his entire life taking care of and serving Soldiers.

“He’s probably the finest leader I’ve ever known in 31 years in the Army,” Grigsby said. “A complete selfless servant since 1955, and he focuses on the two most important things we have: our blood and treasure. He focuses on people and he focuses on developing leaders, and that’s why our country’s 1st Infantry Division, the Fighting First, is the best division in the
United States Army.”

While at Fort Riley, Sullivan, who served as 1st Inf. Div. commanding general from July 1988-July 1989, took an aerial tour of the post to get a wide look at housing and training facilities. He also visited Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, as they conducted a gunnery at Douthit Range Complex, and gave a talk about developing leaders to senior noncommissioned officers and officers, garrison employees and local community members at Riley’s Conference Center.

“I was very, very impressed with everything that’s been done here,” Sullivan said of Fort Riley, noting the amount of money put into big improvements to enhance deployability, training and housing.

Those improvements touch not only active-duty Soldiers on the post, but their families and members of the National Guard and Reserve troops who train there, he added.

Adjutant generals from Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma visited Fort Riley this week to participate in the Total Army Conference – a day designed to enhance the partnership between active-duty Army, National Guard and Reserve units and help those units identify training opportunities at Fort Riley in the next five years.

Sullivan took every opportunity he could to speak with the Soldiers at Douthit about everything from their training and schools attended to their families and hometowns.

Sullivan loves Soldiers, Grigsby said. “The real great leaders that are here to serve Soldiers really love Soldiers,” Grigsby said. “They have joy in their heart for our Soldiers and Gen. Sullivan has love and joy in his heart for each and every Soldier and their family members.”

After his talk and a question-and-answer session at Riley’s, Sullivan was approached by Capt. Douglas Wolfe, commander of Headquarters Support Company, Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Inf. Div.

Wolfe’s father served under Sullivan in the 1980s in Germany, and proudly followed his former brigade commander’s career. When Sullivan was appointed as Army chief of staff, Wolfe’s father sent him a congratulatory letter and Sullivan responded. Wolfe’s father passed away in the summer, and Sullivan’s note was found recently among his Army memorabilia. Wolfe’s father was
extremely proud of the note, he said, as Sullivan was a mentor and inspiration to him, and Wolfe was happy he had the opportunity to relay that to the retired general.

Grigsby said he hoped people took away from Sullivan’s visit that it’s all about people and developing leaders.

“The tanks, the Bradleys, the helicopters, that’s all good stuff,” Grigsby said, “but it takes people – people that are led appropriately, people that are trained appropriately and people that have the will to fight. It’s just all one big team. That’s what makes up the 1st Infantry Division and that’s why we brought him back.”

Story from: Fort Riley