Editor’s note: Paul Herbert, executive director of the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, recently traveled to Iraq to check in with the First Division, which has been operational since the start of World War I, 100 years ago. Herbert shares his observations in time for Armed Forces Day on Saturday.
One hundred years ago, as the U.S. entered World War I, the War Department issued orders for a “division” to go to France.
Nearly alone among the 49 divisions sent to that war, the First Division, today’s 1st Infantry Division, the storied Big Red One, has been on continuous active duty ever since. This August, we will reopen our museum at Cantigny Park to tell its illustrious story.
As the First Division’s centennial approaches, I visited its headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, and Major Gen. Joe Martin (“Danger 6”), who commands the Combined Joint Force Land Component of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led international coalition that is helping Iraq fight the Islamic State. Big Red One officers and soldiers oversee specialized training and equipping, advisers on the ground, and coalition air and artillery strikes.
Progress is slow; the Iraqi Security Forces have been trying to liberate Mosul since October. That said, their steady, painstaking advance against the last ISIS stronghold in Iraq is a far cry from their flight from the battlefield three years ago. There is reason to hope.
I also spoke to many soldiers, including Sgts. Christian Kim of Deerfield and Vladislov Dobin of Lake Zurich. Christian, an intelligence…
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