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The Armed Forces Reserve Center at Fort Benning was dedicated Saturday to a Catholic chaplain who served with distinction in the South Pacific during World War II, while the facilitys senior occupant officially set up its new operation here after a five-decade run in upstate New York.
Building 4400, a sprawling complex on Harmony Church built as part of Base Realignment and Closure, has been named in honor of Lt. Col. Elmer W. Heindl, a chaplain with both the 145th and 148th Infantry Regiments under the 37th Division for campaigns in Guadalcanal, the Solomons and the Philippines from 1942 to 1945. Hes considered among the wars most decorated Soldiers in his profession, having earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and Bronze Star.
Following the memorialization ceremony, the 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training) uncased its colors at the Heindl Center. Its headquarters had been in Rochester, N.Y, for 53 years.
(Fort Benning) is a special place, said Brig. Gen. Dwayne Edwards, the 98th Training Division (IET) commander. Its the center of so many things that are just exciting and important to our Army. ... Were going to be able to work more closely with the Maneuver Center of Excellence, right in the center of all those efforts to integrate Infantry and Armor.
We see opportunities here more clearly than we ever did before.
Ordained a priest in 1936, Heindl was the assistant pastor at St. Andrews in Rochester when he volunteered to join the Army in 1942. He wanted to counsel Soldiers, as he believed they needed spiritual guidance, according to his biography.
Heindl retired from active duty in July 1948 but continued to serve in the Army Reserve. He was the 98th Training Divisions chaplain from May 1959 to June 1970.
Edwards called Heindl an extraordinary individual who routinely saved lives in battle and helped evacuate wounded Soldiers with little regard for his own safety.
He distinguished himself through his many acts of bravery during World War II, he said. Maj. Gen. Gill Beck, who heads the 81st Regional Support Command, the host unit for Saturdays ceremony, said the former chaplain exemplifies whats great about the Army.
A lot of things he did came purely from his heart. Loyalty and selfless service Chaplain Heindl was all about that, the general told the audience. They dont see themselves as heroes. But he was certainly a hero.
Heindl passed away in 2006 at age 96.
More than 22 Family members attended the dedication, traveling to Fort Benning from New York, Michigan, Maryland and California. Among them were his brother, Robert, and niece, Kathleen Nichols.
Were awestruck, she said. This is an awesome honor for my uncle. He well deserved it for everything he did. He was a very humble person and always said he didnt deserve the honors and was just doing his job.
He loved serving others. When the Iraq war broke out, if he was younger, he said he wouldve been over there. He was ready to go back, even in his 90s. Hes up in heaven today smiling down and thinking this is the most awesome thing around. Hed be very, very proud, and our family is, too.
The 98th Training Division, one of three subordinate units to the 108th Training Command (IET), conducts initial entry training for new Soldiers and recruits drill sergeants for duty at Fort Benning; Fort Jackson, S.C.; and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. The headquarters relocation involves roughly 70 personnel, about 25 of whom are full time. The division has units spread from Maine to Florida and out to Texas it also has a battalion based in Puerto Rico.