Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin and other general staff officers visited Fort Stewart on Tuesday.
While officially there on other business, Austin, who served as assistant 3rd Infantry Division commander-maneuver, participated in a dedication ceremony for “Maximus,” the one remaining M4 command and control vehicle, now on display outside Building One at the 3rd ID Headquarters.
“Maximus is the only one remaining of its kind,” said Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams, commander of 3rd ID and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield. “And (Austin), we know because we verified the serial numbers that it’s the original vehicle that served as (your) command and control post (during 3rd ID’s invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003).”
Abrams said “Maximus” and two other mobile command platforms, “Zeus” and “El Cid,” “facilitated a continuous flow of information to and from the division’s command group” while traveling 500 miles from Kuwait to Baghdad alongside Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.
The Army terminated the M4 program in 2004, Abrams said, noting that “Zeus,” “El Cid” and 22 other M4 C2Vs were recycled for parts. Only Maximus was left intact.
Abrams said when the new headquarters building opened in May 2008, there was no combat vehicle to represent the current history of the Marne Division.
He said that among the vehicles most people might consider, the most fitting vehicle to represent division headquarters was the M4 C2V.
Although Austin knew he was being asked to participate in the ceremony for the vehicle he served in, he didn’t know his former crew also would be attending the ceremony.
As Austin joined Abrams and 3rd ID Command Sgt. Maj. Edd Watson for the unveiling, Col. Ross Coffman, Col. Mike Culpepper, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Robert Foster, CW2 Robert Streeper, Heath Bates, Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Jerry Kimble, Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.) Earl Francis and Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.) Robert Brown marched from behind the VIP tent.
“It was truly a moving experience,” Austin said as he described his surprise on being reunited with his former crewmen. “It was an honor to be a part of this dedication.”
A host of officers and Pentagon leaders accompanied Austin during his Stewart visit. They included Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler; Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, deputy chief of staff for personnel (G1); Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, U.S. Army surgeon general; Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, commander of Installation Management Command; Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, chief of public affairs; Maj. Gen. David Quantock, provost marshal; and Brig. Gen. David Bishop, assistant surgeon general for warrior care and commander of the Warrior Transition Command.
“We’re here because we care about our soldiers,” Austin said. “I’ve assembled a number of key members of the Army staff, and we’re visiting a number of posts around the Army — those posts with the highest density of troops.”
Austin said his team was focusing on important personnel issues like the integrated disability evaluation system, suicide prevention and soldiers’ transitions to civilian employment.
“As you know, we’re going to get smaller in the years to come,” he said. “In 2017, we’ll be down to 490,000 troops. We want to make sure we maintain a quality Army.”
Following his remarks, Austin talked with executive board members of the Marne chapter of a nonprofit mentoring organization called “Rocks, Inc.” The organization supports officer and warrant officer professional development, mentorship, scholarship and social interaction.
Afterward, his staff of officers departed via a UH-47 Chinook helicopter for Fort Benning, escorted by two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters through Stewart air space.