The small blue flag that has been the symbol of the 875th Replacement Company was rolled up tightly and precisely by a pair of soldiers during a Saturday morning ceremony that marked the formal end of an Army Reserve unit that has called Fort Dodge home for 63 years.
The unit, which specializes in getting other soldiers ready for duty, particularly overseas assignments, is being deactivated as the Army Reserve makes a series of changes in its structure nationwide.
''Right now, in the wisdom of the Army there is not a need for as many personnel replacement companies,'' said Col. Gus Checketts, the support operations officer of the 103rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command.
Staff Sgt. Tamberlyn Steinbrink, Acting commander of the 875th Replacement Company, watches somberly as the unit flag is rolled up and cased during a casing of the colors and deactivation ceremony Saturday morning at the Pfc. Edwin J. Lemke United States Army Reserve Center in Fort Dodge.
Col. Gus Checketts, support operations officer for the Army Reserve’s 103rd Sustainment Command, speaks Saturday morning during a flag casing and deactivation ceremony for the 875th Replacement Company at the Pfc. Edwin J. Lemke United States Army Reserve Center in Fort Dodge.
Nick Ashenfelter, takes a picture of current and past members of the Army Reserve 875th Replacement Company Saturday morning during a casing of the colors and inactivation ceremony at the Pfc. Edwin J. Lemke United States Army Reserve Center in Fort Dodge. Ashenfelter’s dad, Sgt. Maj. Jeff Ashenfelter, is at left.
Checketts said the service of the unit's soldiers was ''invaluable to our nation.'' That service included a deployment to Saudi Arabia in 1990 for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. It also involved a pair of yearlong assignments to operate replacement centers in the United States in 2005- 2006 and 2010-2011.
The unit arrived in Fort Dodge in 1949 and had several different roles before becoming a replacement company in 1978.
A new unit, perhaps a military police or transportation outfit, will be moved to Fort Dodge in the future, according to Checketts.
''There will be another unit and there may be a time when the 875th is reactivated,'' he said.
Checketts spoke to about 75 people gathered in the Pfc. Edwin J. Lemke United States Army Reserve Center on Webster County Road P56 north of Fort Dodge.
The event Saturday morning combined elements of a retirement party, graduation ceremony and homecoming celebration, according to state Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge. But it was not a funeral or a wake, he added.
Beall said the unit's troops ''have served with honor and dignity and deserve our thanks and gratitude.''
''It's been said that old soldiers never die, they just fade away,'' the senator said. ''I hope the 875th never dies.''
Most of the company's 29 soldiers have already been transferred to other Army Reserve units.
''We did everything together,'' said Staff Sgt. Tamberlyn Steinbrink, the acting commander of the company. ''We love the community and we love each other.''
''It's very hard for me to stand up here and say goodbye to people I've known for 25 years,'' she added.
During his brief remarks to the gathering, Tom Dorsey, the commander of the Fort Dodge Veterans Council, thanked the soldiers and said he looks forward to the day he can participate in a ceremony welcoming a new Army Reserve unit to Fort Dodge.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the blue flag, called a guidon, was rolled tightly around its staff. Then a tan sheath was pulled over it, and the covered flag was carried out of the main assembly room in the Reserve Center.
Following the ceremony, Tim Trusty, of Badger, said he was sad to see the end of his former unit. He joined it in 1966 and served until he retired in 1995 with the rank of first sergeant.
''It's a good one,'' he said of the company.
Working together with all of the soldiers is his favorite memory of his military career, Trusty said.
The company, he said, had a number of different missions earlier in its history. He said when he joined, the unit was Company B of the 306th Quartermaster Battalion. He said the unit did laundry, repaired shoes and fixed canvas items. It also had a large portable shower system it provided to military units out in the field.
Trusty said the unit later did personnel and recordkeeping work before being designated as a replacement company.
Another unit, the 387th Human Resources Company, remains at the local Army Reserve center.