AUGUSTA — Hundreds of troops based at Fort Gordon celebrated a birthday Friday, marking the 244th anniversary of the Army's establishment, and observing the fact that the military's largest branch dates back slightly farther than the country itself. 

The installation's annual celebration, in keeping with tradition, started with an early-morning run, with soldiers taking a trot around several blocks of Fort Gordon's main campus amid unseasonably mild temperatures and low humidity. 

A gathering later in the morning included a reminder of various periods in Army history as illustrated through military uniforms. Soldiers were on hand to show how their predecessors, from as far back as the 1770s, dressed for military service, and the display also featured official garb from within the lifetime of today’s soldiers.

Maj. Gen. Neil S. Hersey, who was promoted this month, becoming commanding general of the Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, was on hand to mark the occasion. He shared a few thoughts on history and the importance of the day, particularly in connection with the 75th anniversary this month of D-Day.

The Second Continental Congress established the Continental Army in 1775, with Gen. George Washington in command. Friday’s event also included a massive birthday cake, complete with “ground troops” advancing below and “paratroopers” arriving from above, recalling the D-Day theme.

Fort Gordon's new leader has a broad range of experience, as his deployments have included time in Hungary, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Italy in support of Operations Deny Flight, Joint Endeavor, Joint Guard, Joint Forge and Allied Force, as noted on the website of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. 

The general also "deployed multiple times to various other countries in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and other contingency missions," the website notes.

Tom Clark, executive director of the Alliance for Fort Gordon, was also on hand for Friday's presentation, which represented "244 years of blood, sweat and tears," he said.

"I am extremely proud to have worn the uniform and been part of a brotherhood and sisterhood that at times is completely different from the regular population, because their job is to defend freedom and the American way of life, and sometimes many of us have scar tissue on our hearts because we've lost people in combat."

Such a reminder "opens up every once in a while, but so does our heart every day when we live in a free country," Clark said. "We are blessed to live in a free country, to celebrate the birthday of our great Army." 

The local installation, originally known as Camp Gordon, was created in October 1941,  having taken on the name of an Army installation that was established in 1917 in Chamblee, Georgia, northeast of Atlanta.

The installation near Augusta was renamed as Fort Gordon in 1956. It covers about 56,000 acres and is in the midst of a massive, multi-year building campaign due to Army restructuring relating to cyber technology. Much of the growth is by transfer from Fort Meade, in Maryland, as Fort Gordon is to become the base of Army Cyber Command, a role that had been shared with Fort Meade.