5th Signal cases colors after 43 years in Europe

U.S. Army Col. Rob Parker, the U.S. Army Europe chief information officer/G-6 and last commander of 5th Signal Command (Theater), and Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Rowland, 2nd Theater Signal Brigade senior enlisted leader, case the 5th Signal Command’s colors at an inactivation ceremony Aug. 4, 2017, at Clay Kaserne in Wiesbaden, Germany. (U.S. Army photo by William B. King)

The U.S. Army’s 5th Signal Command (Theater) cased its colors at an inactivation ceremony Aug. 4 at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, bringing to a close more than 43 years of professional communications service in Europe.

The command’s heritage could be traced back to the U.S. Army Signal Command Europe, organized under U.S. Army Europe General Order dated March 20, 1958, which consolidated military communications in the European Theater. 5th Sig. Cmd. was activated July 1, 1974, in Schwetzingen before moving to Worms the following month. The command’s headquarters later moved to Mannheim in 1996; then to its final location in Wiesbaden in 2009.

Col. Rob Parker, the U.S. Army Europe chief information officer/G-6 and last commander of 5th Sig. Cmd., said the unit had forged strong bonds with its host nation over the last 43 years and thanked the German people for their enduring friendship.

“Over the years the partnerships between the Unites States military and the communities in which we live and operate have often grown into friendships and ultimately into inseparable bonds of mutual commitment, respect and support,” Parker said.

Parker also thanked the Soldiers, civilians and local national employees of 5th Sig. Cmd. for their hard work and professionalism over the years. He said people will be key to ensuring success as signal forces continue to reorganize and restructure to meet future missions and provide communications support to U.S. forces in Germany and throughout Europe.

“I’m confident we will remain an essential element to enabling a Strong Europe while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with allies and partners,” Parker said.

The inactivation is a result of directed funding and force structure cuts made throughout the Department of Defense announced November 2016. The Theater Signal Restructure and Reinvestment is U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command’s effort to transform and streamline overseas theater signal mission command structure. This plan eliminates a layer of mission command by consolidating support functions at the NETCOM headquarters elements and theater signal brigade, and reinvests manpower and resources into supporting five core functions — network planning, network engineering, network operations, network intelligence and cybersecurity.

While some of the command’s responsibilities will be transferred back to NETCOM, most of the day-to-day network and communications operations in Europe and Africa will be conducted by the 2nd Theater Signal Brigade.

Speaking at the ceremony, Maj. Gen. John W. Baker, NETCOM commander, said the Dragon Warriors may be leaving, but the outstanding level of support provided will continue.

“This inactivation is a part of the Army’s efforts to transform our overseas theater signal mission command structure. However, our signal and cyber forces of our great Army that serve across the European and African theaters continue and our commitment to mission success will never waver,” Baker said.

He described the inactivation as a historic event and end of an era for NETCOM and the Army.

“The 5th Signal Command Dragon Warriors may be gone, but their impact on signal operations in Western Europe and the Army will live on forever,” Baker said.

Several former commanders of 5th Sig. Cmd. were in attendance at the inactivation ceremony, including retired Maj. Gen. Charles G. Sutten Jr., who commanded the unit from 1992-1995. He said it was bittersweet to be back and witness the command’s inactivation, but credited the unit for its many contributions to U.S. Army Europe’s mission over the years.

“I think the legacy, the kinds of things that they have done here in Europe, will extend beyond the inactivation. They put their imprint on the infrastructure and the capabilities this theater has that will exist for a long time to come,” Sutten said.

Parker described the inactivation of 5th Sig. Cmd. as the end of a chapter in a great book, but said the story goes on.

“Like the infamous legend of Siegfried and the dragon in Worms, I’m equally confident the legend of the 5th Signal Command will endure for years to come,” Parker said.