Iron Horse rides into sunset: 4ID returns to its Ivy roots

FORT CARSON, Colo. — Retired Sgt. 1st Class Michael Cline, curator of collections for the 4th Infantry Division Museum, whose last duty station was Fort Carson shares a publication depicting the mechanized Ironhorsemen, when the 4th Inf. Div. was first known as the Iron Horse Division, with Pfc. Ryan Gasch at the 4th Inf. Div. Museum July 15, 2019, at Fort Carson. (Photo by Spc. Robert Vicens Rolon)

By Spc. Robert Vicens Rolon, 14th Public Affairs Detachment

FORT CARSON, Colo. —For over three decades, 4th Infantry Division honorably carried the nickname the “Iron Horse Division.” It was a moniker earned during the Cold War when the division converted to a mechanized organization, frequently sending units to Europe to guard against the Communist threat.

In 2018, Maj. Gen. Randy A. George, commanding general, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson, began the process to retire the “Iron Horse Division” nickname in favor of the more historical name, “Ivy Division.”

It was the 100-year anniversary of the birth of the 4th Inf. Div. which inspired George to make the change, said Command Sgt. Maj. T. J. Holland, senior enlisted leader, 4th Inf. Div., and Fort Carson, who the general entrusted to carry out the rebranding mission.

The 4th Division, as the unit was originally called, was created in December 1917. The division was born during the United States’ involvement in World War I, in what President Woodrow Wilson coined was to be “the war to end all wars.” It was soon recognized as the “Ivy Division” in reference to the Roman numeral (IV), which inspired the four ivy leaves on the insignia that have been worn on the shoulders of Ivy Soldiers for a century.

All across Fort Carson, including online and social media, the rebranding has meant updating even the smallest references to the old nickname. From power point slides and letterheads, to murals and signs, most references to Iron Horse are being rooted out, replaced by Ivy.

According to Holland, the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, which was once known as the Iron Eagles has been renamed to the Ivy Eagles.

Other recent examples include the changing of the name for the annual “Iron Horse Week” to “Ivy Week” and the Iron Horse Physical Fitness Center to the Ivy Physical Fitness Center.

“We’ve always been the Ivy Division,” said Retired Sgt. 1st Class Michael Cline, curator of collections for the 4th Infantry Division Museum, whose last duty station was Fort Carson. “Having multiple nicknames is confusing. It makes sense to move away from that.”

Iron Horse was a name that had a great sense of pride for the Soldiers of a certain time period, Cline said.

“It’s a good thing for consistency and under­standing the legacy,” Cline said.

Initially there was some push back, Holland said. There are Soldiers, veterans and retirees who identify as Iron Horse Soldiers who don’t understand the need for the change.

Holland feels it’s a transition worth making.

“It’s positive change,” Holland said. “It’s returning to our history and our proud legacy.”

While change is part of the rebranding mission, steps are also being taken to preserve the Iron Horse legacy.

“Those Soldiers earned the Iron Horse name and reputation,” Holland said. “We will never forget the ‘Iron Horse Division’ — you’re still going to see signs of it on this installation.”

For example, Iron Horse Park will keep its name intact.

“What we’ve done is focus that history to certain locations so we can remember it with reverence — we even have a hall in the division headquarters that hosts a number of Iron Horse memorabilia,” Holland said.

George and Holland want Ivy Soldiers to feel pride about their heritage.

“This investment is about rallying everybody around a common identity,” Holland said.

The history and lineage of each battalion within a brigade combat team date back to the days when

“You have a mixture of battalions with different regimental lineages all mixed under one brigade combat team,” he said. “But first and foremost, I want every Soldier to be proud of being an Ivy Soldier in the best division in the Army.”

Holland believes in the significance of the Ivy Soldier’s heritage.

“I’ve met Soldiers, during the 75th anniversary of D-Day, who stormed the beaches with this patch on their shoulders,” Holland said. “They say the greatest generation were those Soldiers from World War II. Well, we got another great generation of Soldiers now, who will carry that Ivy legacy.”

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