It was a solemn occasion on Jan. 29 as the 1st Cavalry Division Honor Guard marched on the colors at the Phantom Warrior Center. The invocation was given and the 1st Cavalry Division Band played the national anthem as the crowd of soldiers and veterans saluted the flag.
As the division and 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team command teams looked on, a gentleman in a Stetson joined the command team of 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment “Garryowen” before the colors. After nearly eight years, it was time — the regiment was in need of an Honorary Sergeant Major of the Regiment, and after much discussion and hundreds of applicants, retired Command Sgt. Maj. David W. Clemons had been chosen to assume responsibility for the regiment.
“Our last Honorary Sergeant Major was (the late retired) Command Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley, and he did tremendous things for the regiment,” said Lt. Col. Richard Groen, 1st Squadron commander. “Having Command Sgt. Maj. David Clemons come in is tremendous for the regiment, as well as for each of the squadrons and battalions. He is all about selfless service.”
Plumley, who served as the unit’s senior enlisted advisor during the Ia Drang Valley battle in Vietnam and was famously portrayed by Samuel Elliott in the movie “We Were Soldiers,” died in 2012.
The position of Honorary Sergeant Major is held by a retired senior enlisted soldier in the ranks of sergeant first class or above, said Groen. The position is honorary because the regiment does not have a full complement of units — 1st Squadron acts as the headquarters, since the regiment does not have a headquarters battalion, and the only units currently active in the regiment are the 1st, 2nd Battalion and 5th Squadron.
The 2nd Battalion is attached to the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and is currently deployed to Korea. The 5th Squadron is attached to 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
“(Clemons) has already made plans to visit 5-7 out at Fort Stewart and 2-7 once they get back from Korea,” Groen said. “He has plans on how he is going to support each of the units within the 7th Cavalry Regiment. It’s pretty amazing.”
Clemons began his Army career in 1986 with the squadron’s Apache Troops and would return 20 years later to deploy for Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08 as the squadron’s senior enlisted advisor. Since his retirement, he has been deeply involved with the 1st Cavalry Division Association, 7th Cavalry Regiment Association and the Garryowen Veterans Association. He was instrumental in bringing the active duty troopers and veterans together in 2018 in what has now become an annual “Garryowen Past and Present Reunion.”
The reunion brings the experiences and stories of Garryowen veterans from the Korean War to the War on Terror to the active troopers, Clemons said. It was designed to help instill and reinforce a deep sense of pride in the historic regiment and the accomplishments of its troopers since its constitution in 1866.
“It’s an honor for any senior noncommissioned officer to be afforded this opportunity,” Clemons said. “And it’s a special opportunity to be the regimental sergeant major of the 7th Cavalry.”
Clemons said his position will be working closely with the command teams of the active duty battalions to build a sense of unity within the regiment and uphold the regiment’s history and traditions.
“We have a great veterans association within the 1st Squadron, so I want to take that to 2nd Battalion and 5th Squadron and show them what we’ve done,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Clemons also said he intends on reaching out to veterans of 3rd and 4th Squadrons, both of which were inactivated in 2015, to let them know they have not been forgotten.
“We are all a part of a proud regiment,” Clemons said. “We are all ‘The 7th First.’”
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