Cloaked in history and tradition, no major cavalry ceremony would be complete without the requisite sound of cannon fire echoing off Cooper Field.
The soldiers responsible for ensuring ceremonies go off with a bang are called the salute battery.
Recently, soldiers from Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, trained to conduct salute battery operations, a high-profile mission that supports ceremonial events within the division and III Corps footprint.
The events can range from general officer promotions, III Corps changes of command and retirement ceremonies and division distinguished service and welcome ceremonies.
According to the Center of Military History, the tradition of rendering a salute by cannon originated in the 14th century when firearms and cannons became popular. At the time, these weapons contained only one projectile, so discharging them once rendered them ineffective thus showing no signs of hostility.
Much like the 1st Cavalry Division Band and the Horse Cavalry Detachment, this duty is a display of pageantry that requires extensive preparation.
Using the guidance provided by the salutes, honors and visits of courtesy regulation, the battery uses the 75mm M-116 Pack Howitzer, which has seen service in the Army since the end of World War I.
These artillery pieces serve as a reminder to seasoned veterans and newly enlisted soldiers of the lethality and effectiveness of today’s artillery.
For Pvt. Brandon Smith, being a part of the battery means even the slightest miscalculation can be noticed.
“It’s really exciting doing something like this in front of everyone else here on post,” Smith said.
The operation requires a detailed number of steps performed in order and with precision. Soldiers must train to move in unison so when they fire, the soldiers perform their tasks simultaneously across the six-gun battery.
The officer-in-command gives the command to fire to the section chief, who relays the order instantly to the cannoneer, who gives a sharp tug on the lanyard and fires the cannon. The discharged shell is caught by the loader as another round is locked into the breach.
These actions occur within a span of seconds in order to keep up with the pace and to ensure that a misfire on any howitzer does not compromise the mission.
This is not the first time Sgt. 1st Class Jean Marthone, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the salute detail, has trained soldiers in precision movements.
“These soldiers are learning to go through several different motions at the same time,” Marthone said. “That takes a lot of time and practice.”
With their first ceremony scheduled to take place in mid-February, soldiers now spend much of their time conducting pre-combat checks, rehearsals, and cleaning and lubricating their weapons to exceed a combat readiness standard.