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99th Regional Support Command leaves Pittsburgh

TRIBUNE-REVIEW

The checkerboard flag of the 99th officially left Pittsburgh April 19 for its new home at Fort Dix NJ.

The 99th Regional Support Command, the unit's latest incarnation, said goodbye to the city that's been its home since 1921.

"Until our paths cross again, and they will, we bid you farewell," said Maj. Gen. William Monk, the unit's commander.

As part of a national reorganization that coincided with the Defense Department's 2005 base restructuring, the Army Reserve decided to consolidate its 10 regional readiness commands into four regional support commands.

The changes sent the 99th of Moon to Fort Dix as one of the four support commands, and expanded its responsibilities from Pennsylvania and four other states to a 13-state region including Pennsylvania.

Monk said the reorganization sent about 300 positions to New Jersey. Area reserve units will report to their operational commands instead of the 99th.

Moving the 99th out of Pittsburgh is painful but necessary, he said.

"I've never found a more friendly and supportive community," Monk said.

The 99th came to Pittsburgh in 1921 as division headquarters for the Organized Reserves.

The 99th was an infantry division in WorId War II made up largely of soldiers from Pennsylvania and surrounding states. The 99th Infantry fought at the Battle of the Bulge and held the "north shoulder" of the Bulge against heavy, repeated attacks by the Germans. The 99th then went on to become the first Allied infantry division to cross the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen.

After WorId War II, the 99th was deactivated until 1967, when it was reactivated as an Army Reserve unit, again headquartered in Pittsburgh. More than 2,000 soldiers from 22 of the 99th's subordinate units participated in Operation Desert Storm, and many of its units have fought in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Gathered in the auditorium of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, soldiers representing the main subordinate units of the former 99th Regional Readiness Command retired their flags one by one as the orders disbanding the command were read. In the end, the 99th was the only unit flag on stage.

A bugler played taps one last time for all of the soldiers who have died while serving in the 99th. Then the 99th's flag was furled and cased for its trip to Fort Dix.

Jesse Mercure, 43, of Ohioville spent most of his miliary career in the regular Army. The retired sergeant first-class said he had a dismissive attitude toward reservists until he became one and deployed with the 326th Quartermaster Detachment out ofNew Castle.

His unit ended up teaching the regular Army units how to keep a reverse osmosis water purification unit running.

"They think of us as just 'weekend warriors.' They think that we can't know what we're doing," he said. "But when things started breaking, we knew how to fix it."

Last modified May 19, 2009

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