FORT HUACHUCA — Tears flowed on this installation last week when the beloved and storied 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion Command was inactivated at a ceremony on Brown Parade Field.
The 40th ESB is a subordinate unit to the 11th Corps Signal Brigade, said Army spokeswoman Tanja Linton.
According to army.mil, “Expeditionary Signal Battalions (ESB) enable the U.S. Army with uninterrupted mission command and the ability to rapidly deploy and maneuver across the battlefield.”
Linton explained that the unit — known as “Team 40” — executes mission command and network communications support to echelons corps and below, enabling mission command during Unified Land Operations.
The 40th ESB on Fort Huachuca was led by Lt. Col. Joseph A. Smith and Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew J. Halstead.
Both men — headed to different assignments elsewhere — were lauded at the ceremony last Friday morning.
Halstead was given a brigade coin and a Meritorious Service Honor; Smith was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal.
Army Col. Brian Jacobson said the men were the “right leaders, for the right time, for the organization.”
Linton said the Army has been restructuring its signal units.
“It’s always hard to say goodbye to a unit but the Army goes rolling along, the world changes the Army changes with it, so the Army is positioning itself to better respond to future missions,” she said.
“It’s emotional because they’re part of our family and they have been a special part of our family because they’re the only unit on Fort Huachuca that deployed as a unit, rather than just individuals,” Linton added. “We’re mostly a testing and training installation but they steadfastly deployed throughout their time here.”
The 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion is one of the most decorated Signal Battalion in the Army, Linton said. Constituted July 31, 1942, as the 40th Signal Construction Battalion, it was activated on Sept. 21, 1942, at Camp Campbell, Kentucky. The 40th was a segregated unit that had an exclusively African-American enlisted force.
Typical of the post-World War II Army, the 40th was inactivated in 1946, only to be re-activated in 1950 at Camp Gordon, Georgia. After being reorganized in 1953, the 40th was re-designated as the 40th Signal Battalion and sent to participate in the occupation of Europe.
While in Europe, and pursuant to President Truman’s Executive Order 9981 of 1948, the 40th was the first Signal Battalion to de-segregate. Later, the 40th would also go on to become the first Signal unit to integrate genders.
The 40th’s next combat service came during the Vietnam War. Beginning in 1966, 40th was an active participant in every phase of the Vietnam War, ending with the Cease Fire in 1973. Fourteen battle streamers were added to the Battalion Colors, along with two Meritorious Unit Commendations.
In October of 1981, the 40th was reassigned to Fort Huachuca.
In all, the 40th has earned 28 battle streamers and five Meritorious Unit Commendations, Linton said. With additional service in countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Afghanistan, Poland, and the Horn of Africa, in addition to its extensive service throughout the U.S. Northern Command and the U.S. Pacific Command areas of responsibility, the 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion’s rich history is unmatched in the Army Signal Corps.
And there is a solid community of Signal 40 veterans in the area, Linton said.
“They have touched a lot of people’s lives,” she said. “Their lives have been influenced for decades by having a signal unit on Fort Huachuca. It marks the end of a specific era. But I think you heard some of the leaders talk about ‘It’s just farewell for now’. There may be a time when the Army decides to activate the 40th in the future.”
Soldiers who belonged to the 40th will likely be absorbed into other areas of the Army, or some might retire, Linton said.