Hometown Military News: Aug. 19, 2016

Hometown Military News for Aug. 19, 2016:

Storied Quad Cities Field Artillery Battalion cases its colors, to transition to engineer

MILAN – After nearly a century of service as a Field Artillery unit including multiple combat deployments, the Illinois Army National Guard’s highly-decorated 2-123rd Field Artillery Battalion cased its colors on Aug. 13.

The unit will officially inactivate on Aug. 31 and transition to the 123rd Engineer Battalion on Sept. 1.

“It was not the Field Artillery that made the soldiers great, but rather the soldiers that made the Field Artillery great,” said Lt. Col. Corey Wise of Bryant, who served as the battalion’s commander for three years before relinquishing command on the day of the ceremony. “These same soldiers are going to make this a great Engineer battalion.”

The battalion, with its headquarters in Milan and batteries in Milan, Galesburg and Macomb; originated as the 6th Infantry Regiment. The 6th Infantry served in the Blackhawk War, Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. It became the 123rd Field Artillery just prior to World War I, seeing combat in the St. Mehile, Muse-Argonne and the Lorraine Campaigns.

The battalion saw World War II combat action in the Pacific Theater earning it an Army Meritorious Unit Citation. It served in the Hawaiian Islands, New Guinea, the Dutch East Indies and the Philippines. It ended its World War II duty as part of the occupation forces of Japan. During the Korean War it served as a training battalion on the West Coast.

The battalion served in Iraq in 2005, where two of its Soldiers – Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Wehrly, 28, of Galesburg, and Sgt. Brian Romines, 20, of Simpson – were killed in action. From May 2010 to June 2011, the battalion was deployed to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt as part of the Multi-National Observer Force monitoring the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. The battalion was also placed on state active duty on multiple occasions to assist in state emergencies including multiple major floods.

The 123rd Engineer Battalion will carry the lineage and honors of 2-123 Field Artillery. The conversion from Field Artillery to Engineers is part of the U.S. Army’s restructuring and addresses its future needs. Additionally, bringing additional Engineer assets into the state will bolster the Illinois Army National Guard’s capability to respond to domestic emergencies. Still, Illinois Army National Guard leaders acknowledged the transition was tough for those soldiers with the Field Artillery for many years.

“Next year the unit would have celebrated 100 years with the Field Artillery,” said Col. Rodney Thacker, Commander of the 65th Troop Command, the unit’s higher headquarters. “I understand this is bittersweet for many soldiers who grew up in this battalion.”Wise spent more than 20 years in the battalion including the last three years as its Commander. “It was a difficult change, but one that the battalion’s soldiers have made with the same honor, pride, and commitment that have always made this unit great.”

After casing the 2-123rd Field Artillery Battalion’s guidon, Wise relinquished command of the battalion to Lt. Col. Krista Soria of Springfield.

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