‘Tropic Lightning' Division honors former commander

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jesus J. Aranda, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jesus J. Aranda, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jesus J. Aranda, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jesus J. Aranda, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office

By U.S. Division – Center Public Affairs Office

BAGHDAD— For many on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, Feb. 10, 2010 became a somber day with the news of the passing of a single man. An active member of his local community, a supporter of many benefits and charities in the area, and an accomplished military leader, this man went by many names and titles including husband, father, brother, general, friend and chief of staff of the U.S. Army.

When retired Gen. Frederick C. Weyand, 93, passed away, the impact was felt worldwide by many whose lives he personally touched by his service in three wars, including Vietnam as the commander of the 25th Inf. Div., and his work with local Hawaiian communities well into his 80s.

In remembrance of the legacy he left behind for today's 'Tropic Lightning' Soldiers, the deployed leaders of the 25th Infantry Division gathered at the headquarters of United States Division – Center, Camp Liberty, Iraq, March 25, to witness a rededication ceremony of the division's conference room. Maj. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux, the division's current commanding general, encouraged those in attendance to take a moment to reflect on the contributions and sacrifices those such as Weyand have made to the U.S. Army and our nation.

"Forty four years since he commanded the 25th Inf. Div. and his leadership is still an inspiration to those of us serving with the division," said Col. Bjarne M. Iverson, chief of staff, 25th Inf. Div.

Following his 38-year military career, Weyand went on to serve his local communities through volunteering and participating in charities and public service organizations like the Boy Scouts of America and The Honolulu Rotary Club. Weyand's character and pride in the military was one which inspired admiration for many of the people who met him, including Champoux.

"(After his retirement) he still wore his Class As, even in Hawaii, when most people wore Class Bs," said Champoux during the ceremony. "He was a very tall, stately gentleman and he had so much grace in the way he carried himself. He walked with a quiet confidence."

During his time as commander of the 25th Inf. Div., Weyand and American forces faced a difficult enemy in a challenging environment while also taking on the approach of humanitarianism in combat.

"Gen. Weyand and the division fought an enemy on a battlefield that included more than just land features," said Adam Elia, division historian. "The people of Vietnam were also part of the terrain being contested. He initiated programs to help civilians within the division's area while conducting operations to secure the population and go after the enemy. He understood the importance of knowing the people in his area and making sure they were secure."

As Weyand was once called upon to lead the division through a campaign of partnership, rebuilding and humanitarian efforts in Vietnam, today's 25th Inf. Div. has been called to take on a similar campaign in Iraq.

"When he was commander of all U.S. forces in Vietnam, he oversaw the drawdown of American troops from the country while continuing to advise, train, and assist local forces," said Elia. "His experiences and lessons-learned directly influenced the way we approach these operations today."

It was because of his wisdom, leadership and vision that the Army has prospered and become the dominant force it is today, according to Iverson.

"He was an architect who helped to design today's Army," said Iverson. "He had a vision for the Army and he planted those seeds to help grow the greatest Army in the world today."

Weyand's accomplishments can also be seen as having built a strong foundation for Soldiers of today's 25th Inf. Div. and his leadership and life as a man of the community and family were what Champoux felt deserving of the honor.

"He brought this division into combat and he fought with this division in Vietnam and I hope we all will take a few minutes today to remember the contributions he has made to the division, his legacy, and his family," said Champoux.

With the dedication of the Gen. Frederick C. Weyand Conference Room—its entrance adorned with photos of Weyand and his Soldiers serving during the Vietnam era overseeing the Division Operations Center much in the same way Weyand oversaw the three wars in which he participated— 25th Inf. Div. leaders will have the opportunity to pay tribute to the accomplishments of a great leader.

"Every morning the leadership of this division start the day here in this room," said Champoux. "Now, every morning we will be reminded of Gen. Frederick Weyand and what he did for this division."