TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 11, 2008) — Since the end of World War I, nearly 90 years ago, the circled A shoulder patch has been associated with Third Army. The proud heritage of the famous unit continues on today, but under a new name and with an expanded role for the 21st century.
No longer designated as Third Army, the unit nicknamed "Patton’s Own" is now U.S. Army Central, or USARCENT.
Although the Third Army name has passed into the rolls of history, USARCENT commander Lt. Gen. Jim Lovelace expressed satisfaction that its lineage and honors would continue under the USARCENT banner.
“It is an honor to our lineage and our current configuration that we retain the patch of the Soldiers who have served so valiantly in the Nation’s major conflicts since 1918,” he said. “USARCENT is a new name for a new mission, but the Soldiers of this command have the same drive and fighting spirit that have carried this unit around the world for nearly a century.”
In 2006, the Department of the Army decided that numbered Armies would be redesignated as Army Service Component Commands (ASCC) and would carry names associating them with the combatant commands they support. Third Army was the first of these, becoming US Army Central to highlight its ties with Central Command. The unit’s motto, “Third … Always First,” is particularly apt, as it is breaking trail for other ASCCs to follow.Becoming a Regional ASCC reflects the nature of the modern battlefield in that USARCENT is an operational-level Army force which can conduct missions and operations across the full spectrum of conflict in the Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility. This includes the capability of commanding and controlling Joint and/or coalition forces engaged in sustained military actions.
According to Lt. Gen. Lovelace, USARCENT has three roles.
“First, we will provide a command and control headquarters able to handle the full spectrum of operations,” he said. “Second, we conduct theater security cooperation engagements and events, maintaining relationships and continuing to build trust with people in this region. And third, we sustain the warfighting force in the CENTCOM area of operation. And we do all of this while continuing to take care of families.”
The roots of US Army Central began in November, 1918, when Third Army was activated to enforce the terms of the armistice bringing World War I to an end. The shoulder patch reflects that mission, with the A inside an O referring to Army of Occupation.
World War II brought enduring fame to the unit under the command of the colorful Lt. Gen. George Patton as Third Army tanks raced across France and Germany, finishing the war at a point further east than any other American force. After the war its heritage continued, again serving as an occupational army in post-war Germany.
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm were brought to successful conclusions under Third Army’s management, with the largest armored battle in the history of warfare. The next 12 years of uneasy tensions, aggressive moves and countermoves in the Middle East culminated with Operation Iraqi Freedom, again under the command of Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC)//Third Army. When the conflict ended, CFLCC/Third Army remained in Iraq until June 2003, when it redeployed to Kuwait and assumed its current mission.