A ceremony was held May 13 in Camp Funston for about 100 new soldiers in which they received the symbol of the unit they will be joining — the patch of the 1st Infantry Division.
“It’s a time-honored tradition in the Army, and we here at the 1st Infantry Division felt like it’d be a very good event to tie into the COVID-19 pandemic process we’re in right now,” said Capt. Harrison Fletcher, commander of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company for 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div.
The ceremony is one that usually doesn’t happen, he said.
“… since we had to quarantine them for seven days out here, we’re trying to make that as comfortable as possible,” he said. “And show them how much we care about them — how much the community cares about them. The brotherhood of the 1st Infantry Division is absolutely phenomenal, and the patching ceremony allows these young soldiers to come in and feel a part of a team immediately.”
The soldiers came training posts from all over the country.
“We have folks from the Fire Center of Excellence, (Fort Sill, Oklahoma), the Maneuver Center of Excellence, (Fort Benning, Georgia),” Fletcher said. “So, you have folks from Fort Benning; Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Fort Sill. It’s a very all-inclusive group, we even have a group of soldiers from Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, our medical personnel here. So, it’s a plethora of different military occupational specialties.”
Staff Sgt. Colton Maraggia, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st ABCT, 1st Inf. Div., was one of the cadre who stayed with the new soldiers during their quarantine.
“We got to spend seven days with these guys teaching them some pretty interesting things that we’ve learned throughout our careers,” he said. “So, getting the opportunity to put a patch on them and actually welcome them to Fort Riley was an honor.”
He said during the seven-day portion of the soldiers 14-day quarantine period, the first seven days having been served at their training stations, the soldiers learned many of the new tasks they would be performing in their units.
“So the things that we taught them were how to operate radios, how to read a map, how to use a compass — just things that they would need to help them throughout their career,” he said.
He said that the biggest challenge they faced during the last week was ensuring everyone followed the Protect, Prevent, Preserve initiative in place on the installation.
“There was a lot of moments where if they weren’t within it, we had to put our masks on and ensure that we took all the precautions necessary to keep these guys safe,” he said. “There were some challenges, being that far apart doing physical distancing, but honestly these guys were excellent troopers and they made it through.”
For new soldier, Private John Gilliland, this is something he has wanted since he was a child.
“This is a big honor because ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to be an American soldier and to stand here today, and be able to wear the patch of the 1st Infantry Division, it’s a great honor,” he said.
After the ceremony was complete the soldiers grabbed their issued gear and made their way to their new homes within the brigade area to begin their time on Fort Riley.