- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2006

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — After a decade in Germany, the Big Red One came home yesterday.

The Army’s storied 1st Infantry Division — which gets its nickname from its red “1” insignia — returned to Fort Riley, where it will be based from now on.

About 2,000 civilians joined proud veterans of the division on the parade ground to welcome the unit. The occasion was marked with speeches, marching bands and artillery fire.

“It’s one big family,” said 70-year-old Gordon Kirkman of Pittsburgh, choking back tears as he recalled his service with one of the division’s tank battalions in Germany during the early 1950s.

The Big Red One was formed in 1917 during World War I and saw action in Europe and Vietnam. The division was based at Fort Riley from 1955 to 1996, when it was transferred to Wurzburg, Germany.

The Pentagon announced the return of the Big Red One last year, when it decided to move thousands of soldiers from Europe back to the continental United States.

At Fort Riley, the division will focus on training military transition teams to assist the new armies and police in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The return to Fort Riley is expected to boost the post’s military population from 12,000 to more than 18,000 and add thousands of family members and civilian employees.

“This is huge for Kansas,” Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said. “There’s a huge positive economic benefit on our state. But beyond that, it indicates that Kansas will be critical to defense of this nation and the world.”

At least eight soldiers were treated for heat stress during the ceremony as the temperature climbed into the 90s.

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