Old Guard Unit Thinks of Past In Face of Cuts With PM-Pentagon Cuts-Reax, Bjt
Mar. 27, 1992
CHICOPEE, Mass. (AP) _ At one of the oldest military units in the nation, soldiers without a mission packed medical equipment without a destination.
The 160-member unit of the Army National Guard's 104th Infantry was cleaning house, taking inventory and preparing to disband.
''Basically, we're losing our home,'' said Sgt. 1st Class Ron Verville as he packed boxes at the Chicopee Armory. ''We're losing our tradition - a history of over 300 years.''
The Pentagon on Thursday targeted 830 National Guard units across the nation - and 140,000 jobs - for elimination. Massachusetts would lose 8,000 jobs.
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said the money is needed elsewhere in the post-Cold War era. The proposed cuts await Congressional action.
Verville and two other medics helping him didn't know where the equipment would be sent. And they weren't sure what the future held for them.
Specialist Richard Bush spoke bitterly as he discussed the past, and what he called the government's neglect of history.
''Other countries in the world make quite a bit of effort to maintain their oldest units,'' he said. ''We couldn't believe it could actually happen.''
The Chicopee unit, which serves as command center for the 104th Infantry's 2nd Battalion, is 136 years older than the Army, which was formed in 1775.
The armory in Chicopee, a city just north of Springfield, displays the unit's colorful past. The paper marking the regiment's creation in 1639 as part of the colonial militia shares a space with documents from the French government thanking it for its service to that country in the world wars.
Ribbons with its colors stand inside the front door. Copies of the first regiment's crest, with references to wars it later helped fight, hang on the walls of the drill shed.
''World War I wasn't won by the active Army, it was won by the National Guard. World War II wasn't won by the active Army, it was won by the National Guard,'' said Capt. Ed Lizotte, the battalion administrator.
Lizotte said the cuts reflect a lack of respect for the Guard's mission and scorn from active-duty military for ''weekend warriors.''
''But man for man, I would put this battalion up against an active-duty battalion,'' he said.