News: Undersecretary of the Army speaks at 196th RCT Reunion
Story by Master Sgt. Rich Kemp
BRAINERD, Minn. - Dr. Joseph Westphal, the undersecretary of the Army, was in Minnesota Sept. 22 to visit soldiers at Camp Ripley during the day. That night he spoke to heroes from a different era.
Cragun’s Resort near Brainerd, Minn., was host to a reunion of more than 70 members of the 196th Regimental Combat Team.
The 196th RCT was originally made up of soldiers from the South Dakota Army National Guard. They were training at Fort McCoy, Wis., when the Korean War broke out. Thirty-six days later in September of 1950 the 196th RCT was activated and soon they were on their way to Fort Carson, Colo.
“We were proud to be in the military and ready to do our part,” said Wayne Wilson, the president of the 196th Regiment Combat Team Association.
The original plan was for the soldiers of the 196th RCT to prepare to ship out to South Korea. However, their mission changed after they arrived at Fort Carson. They were joined by soldiers from around the country and grew to 4,795 soldiers in the regiment. They were trained as cadre and trained recruits who were soon headed to fight the war in Korea.
In July of 1951 the regiment was moved to Fort Richardson, Alaska. They trained on arctic survival and were prepared to defend Alaska in case of attack from the Bering Sea. The 196th RCT remained in Alaska until October of 1954 and was deactivated in 1956.
The group organized their first reunion in 1987 and has continued the tradition ever since, holding the event in a different location every two years.
“I am very pleased to have been a part of the Army and the 196th,” said Wilson. “And being back together with these boys again today. It is a feeling you can’t explain or give up.”
Two brothers, Merlyn and Morrie Karst, came to the reunion together. They joined the 196th while they were still in high school in South Dakota. Merlyn was a supply sergeant and deployed with the unit. Morrie was still in school when they deployed and ended up joining the Navy.
“We have so many stories from our time together in the 196th,” Morrie commented. “We even spent some time training at Camp Ripley.”
The highlight for the Karst brothers and the rest of the members of the 196th in attendance was the speech by Dr. Westphal.
The undersecretary thanked them all for their service and gave them an update on today’s Army.
“Our mission is no different than the mission you that you supported when you were soldiers,” Dr. Westphal told the crowd. “Our mission is to prevent conflict, shape the environment and to win the nations wars.”
He said the Army is in transition right now and compared it to the movie: The Perfect Storm.
“In the movie, the fishermen were hit by three different weather systems,” said Dr. Westphal. “We are facing our own perfect storm with changes coming after the elections… budget cuts across the board… and the third storm is that we will have to focus more on Asia.”
Dr. Westaphal ended his talk by again thanking the members of the 196th for their service to our country and then answered questions from the audience.
The Litchfield Area Male Chorus also entertained the group by singing several patriotic songs.
The night was a time for American heroes to get together with old friends and talk about their duty to our country more than 60 years ago.