HARTFORD, Conn. –
HARTFORD, Conn — U.S. Army Col. David Pickel, 143rd Regional Support Group, Connecticut Army National Guard, gifted his shoulder sleeve insignia to Korean War veteran U.S. Army Pfc. Richard Kurtz, 13th Ranger Company, 43rd Infantry Division (Retired) during a brief ceremony at the West Suffield, Connecticut VFW on Thursday, May 19, 2022.
Pickel is the commander of the 143rd Regional Support Group, which carries on the lineage of the 43rd Infantry Division. Kurtz served with the 43rd, then part of the Connecticut Army National Guard, after the unit was federalized following the start of the Korean War.
In March of 1951, Kurtz volunteered to join the 13th Ranger Company, which had just been organized a month prior on Feb. 1, 1951. Ranger companies were a newly formed type of unit that trained for special operations but were organic to larger units. Soldiers of these companies had to be extremely physically fit and would all become airborne qualified, meaning all soldiers in the company were trained in airborne operations and had to complete five jumps from a military aircraft, unless they were a paratrooper previously during World War II, in which case they would only have to do one jump. Kurtz trained to become a Ranger, splitting his time between Fort Pickett and Fort Bragg. He would pass training and qualify as a Ranger, returning to serve in the 13th Ranger Company until he volunteered to serve in Korea with the 101st Airborne Division.
The 43rd Infantry Division was constituted on October 19, 1920, with the division headquarters being federally recognized later on March 21, 1920, in Hartford, Connecticut. This division would be one of 18 National Guard divisions created as part of the 1920 amendments to the National Defense Act of 1916 and would be the sole National Guard division allocated to New England. The 43rd served in World War II, going overseas on October 1st, 1942 to fight in the Pacific Theater of Operations, or PTO. There, the 43rd participated in combat operations on Vangunu, Rendova, New Georgia and notably made an amphibious assault landing in the San Fabian area of Lingayen Gulf, Luzon. The division eventually put boots on the ground in Japan on September 13th, 1945 as part of the occupation following the end of the war.
During the Korean War, the division was federalized once more and sent to Germany, serving overseas until released from active federal service on June 15, 1954. The division was inactivated on May 1, 1963 as part of the National Guard restructuring and its headquarters elements would become part of the 26th Infantry Division, also known as the Yankee Division. The 43rd Infantry Division lineage and insignia was carried on by the 43rd Infantry Brigade until 1997, after which the unit was inactivated once more. It wasn’t until July 18, 2020, that the black grape leaf patch of the 43rd Infantry Division would shine again in the sun, this time as the shoulder sleeve insignia of soldiers assigned to the 143rd Regional Support Group, Connecticut Army National Guard for their deployment to Jordan. It would be the first time the insignia of the 43rd was worn since 1997 and after the deployment marked the first time the patch was worn as a shoulder sleeve insignia of wartime service since World War II.