Fort Irwin cuts ribbon on General Robert W. Cone Heritage Center

In the quaint little town of Wescott, Wisc., sits the home of late Army General Robert W. Cone and his widow, Mrs. Jill Cone.

General Cone assumed command of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) in April of 2011 after he was promoted to the rank of four-star general. Four months after his promotion to four-start general, Cone was diagnosed with cancer. He retired in 2014, passed away on Sept. 19, 2016, and laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., on Dec. 9, 2016.

Brig. Gen. Curtis Taylor, commanding general of the National Training Center/Fort Irwin, Calif., speaks during the dedication of the General Robert W. Cone Heritage Center on post. ìIt is fitting that we dedicate this heritage center to General Cone and his legacy which has been so intertwined with the history of the NTC,î Taylor Said. Cone served as the 15th commanding general of the NTC. (Army photograph by Pvt. James Newsome)

Before becoming a general officer, Cone had a notable history with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. While the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment was in Fulda, Germany, Cone served as the 2nd Squadron Operations Officer during Operation Desert Storm, the Regimental Operations Officer in 1991, and the Regimental Executive Officer in 1993.

At Fulda, the role of the 11th Armored Cavalry was changing. Their mission in Germany had ended, and they were deactivated in October 1993. As the Executive Officer, Cone oversaw the closing of the 11th ACR’s military offices, housing areas, and bases.

On March 15, 1994, at 5 p.m., hours, the color guard for the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment lowered the flag at Downs Barracks, folded it neatly, and presented it to the Mayor of Fulda, Germany, ending the Regiment’s service in the country.

In 2004, Cone became the Commanding General of the United States Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. During his 33 months in command, he implemented many changes to include reorienting training on counterinsurgency operations (COIN) and establishing the Joint Center of Excellence to train for the defeat of improvised explosive devices.

“I remember talking to General Cone about the museum when he was in command of the National Training Center,” said Kenneth Drylie, the current heritage center curator. “He took great pride in the fact he had been there to oversee the departure of the regiment from Germany. He talked about packing up the Regimental historical displays and shipping them to the US.”

Cone saved almost every piece of military memorabilia he received during his 35 years in the U.S. Army, from his uniform when he attended the United States Military Academy to plaques that he received from all of the units he served in or commanded. Mrs. Cone decided to donate a selection of his belongings to Fort Irwin.

Distinguished guests, including Jill Cone, widow of Gen. Robert W. Cone, were on hand for the dedication of the General Robert W. Cone Heritage Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., Aug. 28, 2021. (Army photograph by Pvt. James Newsome)

“I’m donating Bob’s things because I want people to get a glimpse into the incredible person he was,” says Jill Cone. “I could no longer live with my walls full of all of his things; it was too much of a reminder of my loss.”

Leadership at the National Training Center made the decision to name the Heritage Center after General Cone before she chose to donate the memorabilia.

“When I found out the Heritage Center was going to be named after Bob, I felt great emotion. I heard about it from one of his former aides, Lt. Col. Mike Ziegelhofer. He is like a brother/son. We first met him at Fort Irwin when Bob selected him to be his aide. Since Bob has died, Ziggy has been an incredible support to me. These kind of friendships are the thing I miss the most about the Army.”

The Museum at Fort Irwin was originally stood up at a former Dining Facility in 1999 and closed on July 1, 2018, for an extensive remodel and conversion to a “Heritage Center.”

Highlighted in the Heritage Center is the rich history of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Displays trace the history of the 11th ACR from its beginnings in 1901 through its many deployments to the mission of the 11th ACR to train America’s fighting forces.

New to the Heritage Center are displays highlighting the mission and history of the Operations Group and the 916th Support Brigade. Future plans include adding displays celebrating the US Army Garrison, U.S. Army Medical Department Activity and U.S. Army Dental Activity.

The Military and Civilian Spouses Club Gift Shop has also been relocated to Heritage Center in building 222.

Jill Cone joined other special guests on Aug. 28, 2021, for the opening of the General Robert W. Cone Heritage Center that also coincided with the celebration of the National Training Center’s 400th rotation.

Brig. Gen. Curtis Taylor, commanding general of the National Training Center/Fort Irwin, Calif., Jill Cone, widow of Gen. Robert W. Cone, and other distinguished guests cuts the ribbon opening the newly dedicated General Robert W. Cone Heritage Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., Aug. 28, 2021. (Army photograph by Pvt. James Newsome)
Brig. Gen. Curtis Taylor, commanding general of the National Training Center/Fort Irwin, Calif., and Jill Cone, widow of Gen. Robert W. Cone, unveil the sign at the newly dedicated General Robert W. Cone Heritage Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., Aug. 28, 2021. (Army photograph by Pvt. James Newsome)

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