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Etching A Unit's History
by U.S. Army Sgt. Felix Fimbres - September 9, 2015

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.— Most units decorate their walls with recruiting posters and policy letters but the 448th Civil Affairs Battalion proudly shows its own history upon its walls, as if it were an unearthed time capsule with its once hidden contents on display.

Photos of the 448th's sergeants from a bygone era, wearing uniforms from decades past, hang alongside excerpts from commanders diaries on the walls. Passages such as, “A light noon meal was appreciated by all but caloric intake remained the same as the quantity of beer consumed offset the decrease in food,” punctuate the past. Battle rosters from recent deployments list the Army Reserve Soldiers who answered their nations call. Medals earned by the unit for the mission exhibited for all to see.

Former 448th Civil Affairs Battalion command sergeant major and unit historian, Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick McDonald, explains nearly a decade of 448th’s historical timeline July 18, 2015, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. McDonald played an essential role in generating the timeline. The units’ detailed wall of history is filled with various photographs, unit citations and other accolades. McDonald joined the 448th in 1994 where he served for 19 years. McDonald is currently the 440th Civil Affairs Battalion command sergeant major out of Fort. Carson, Colo. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Ebony Malloy)
Former 448th Civil Affairs Battalion command sergeant major and unit historian, Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick McDonald, explains nearly a decade of 448th's historical timeline July 18, 2015, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. McDonald played an essential role in generating the timeline. The units' detailed wall of history is filled with various photographs, unit citations and other accolades. McDonald joined the 448th in 1994 where he served for 19 years. McDonald is currently the 440th Civil Affairs Battalion command sergeant major out of Fort. Carson, Colo. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Ebony Malloy)

“What you see here are not pictures of Humvees and helicopters — it's pictures of people, children, markets, because everything is people oriented,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick MacDonald, the wall's curator, and former member of the 448th, located here.

People like Sgt. Regina Reali and Sgt. Cheyenne Willey, who were killed in action during a deployment to Baghdad, Iraq, in 2005. A photo of them taken together with their sacrifice written on the image serves as a testament to their life and the sacred place they hold in the memory and history of the unit.

MacDonald smiled when he came up to a photo of a group of Soldiers from the 1970s.

“Look at this, big hair and mustaches, you can tell this was a different time and different standards,” MacDonald said.

Just a few frames down 1st Sgt. John W. Goodwin, a World War II and Korean War combat veteran, stands in a photo at parade rest; now a part of the tapestry of people who have created a legacy for the 448th.

That legacy, MacDonald pointed out, is not limited to just civil affairs Soldiers.

“The history of our wall not only shows the history of civil affairs but also those that supported the units; the people who drove the trucks, the people who set up the radio station, and the cooks who supported the unit,” MacDonald said. “Their history is here as well because the overall mission can't succeed without the overall support.”

The documents and photos, which now inspire current Soldiers, were almost tossed out with the trash. MacDonald said someone had put these relics of a bygone era in a box and labeled it trash, not understanding its significance.

Instead, thanks to MacDonald, himself a historian, the 448th can see and read its history. A photo of a Soldier cutting a log seemed out of place until you read its caption, “The road to the bivouac site was littered with fallen timber cut the day before. Two Soldiers, being lumberjacks, took charge of the situation and cleared the road.”

Like those two Soldiers, MacDonald saw a situation, historical records being thrown out, and used his civilian skills to help his unit. Saving this history has had a direct impact on new Soldiers.

“Just to be a part of one of those milestones displayed on the wall would be great,” said Sgt. Brandon Willis, the communications sergeant with the 448th and a new member of the unit. “You hear about these extraordinary people [who served in the unit] and you feel like you can't really connect with them but then you see them interacting with other people and there's just something about it where you feel more connected.”

Part of the display included State Proclamations and citations from other units; which helped tell the story of the 448th as a whole. They outlined specific accomplishments the unit has done and display state seals and signatures of the Governor; a small token of appreciation from people outside the unit.

For the members of the unit, the wall and its curator deserve their own recognition.

“This is important because it shows fellow Soldiers, especially the new ones, our unit has done things; we have a mission and we can see it on the wall in photos,” said 1st Sgt. Darren K. Logsdon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 448th Civil Affairs Battalion. “It means there's a sense of achievement. It makes me feel good that there's someone in the unit who cared enough and dedicated their time, so that everyone can see it.”

MacDonald joined the 448th in 1994 and served with them for 19 years. His last position with the unit was as the command sergeant major. He now is with the 440th Civil Affairs Battalion, based out of Fort Carson, Colorado, as their command sergeant major.

By U.S. Army Sgt. Felix Fimbres
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2015

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