Formal military balls have been held at Fort Leavenworth since probably shortly after there was a Fort Leavenworth.
Formal military balls have been held at Fort Leavenworth since probably shortly after there was a Fort Leavenworth. In those frontier days, any reason for a meal, dance, and socializing was welcomed.
Several magazine articles related that a 19th Century river boat captain used to request weekend missions from St. Louis to Fort Leavenworth during the formal ball season as he enjoyed attending them. If they were good enough for Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, they should be enjoyed by everyone.
But that has not been the case over the past decade or so. Almost all of the larger Army branches held a ball at the fort in past years, but few do today.
Two branches, infantry and armor, combined several years ago when both found it a struggle to pull off a ball. The next year engineers were invited, but after only two years of a combined ball, that one fell by the wayside. The last one was in 1996.
But 15 or so years ago Col. Byron Lester, a former Army enlisted helicopter crewman in Vietnam, then a colonel at CGSC, decided to combine the smaller combat service support (CSS) branches, none of which could pull off a ball by itself, and have one big CSS Ball.
It was a hit. Today CSS branches have changed and the most recent name of the ball was the Sustainment Ball. The branches involved in it have also changed over the years, so I won't attempt here to say which branches will gather Saturday at the Embassy Suites near KCI for their gala evening.
CSS troops have long been called "loggies" for their logistics duties. However the ball has never been called the Loggie Ball, nor will it ever be.
The ball made history in 2009 when the speaker was Gen. Ann Dunwoody, the first and so far only woman in military history to become a four-star general. When I went through the receiving line I introduced myself as "the token cavalry officer here tonight."
She beamed, clasped my hand, and said "Great! I love cavalrymen. My grandfather was a cavalryman." That immediately made us fast friends, and it didn't hurt that she loved history. As a retired cavalryman I was at the ball to provide a historical display, which I am always happy to do for any ball that wants one.
And although the macho men in the combat branches pride themselves on being "the real Army," several years ago at the Sustainment Ball I sat on the table with some Air Force officers. I said I was impressed by the ball's organization and operation, but the flyboys said they weren't surprised.
"In our staff groups, the loggies are the brains and do most of the good, analytical work," all said. "When a tough problem is presented, we give it to our loggies."
That was pretty high praise coming from fellow classmates, as in my scant 26 years in CGSC I found the Air Force students to be of the highest caliber and among the brightest.
So soon I'll be digging out boxes of loggie items that have been buried in several storage areas since last spring and getting them ready for Saturday. The Embassy Suites, unlike some other venues in the area, is very display friendly and also not far away, so I enjoy setting up displays there.
As a former S-4 (logistics) officer in a cavalry squadron in Vietnam, I worked with many loggie units on a daily basis, and in spite of a typhoon or two and monsoon rains, our squadron never ran out of anything.
So I look forward to meeting the young logisticians of today, and will happily compare my war stories from the jungle with theirs from the desert and the mountains.
John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.