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    Fort Sill hosts historic retirement ceremony for three Artillery Half Section horses

    Horse Retire0048

    Photo By Monica Wood | Dubia, Baxter and Shoffner, along with their namesakes and their new adopted families...... read more read more



    Story by Monica Wood 

    Fort Sill Public Affairs

    FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Nov. 19, 2021) Fort Sill retired three horses in a ceremony next to the Patriot Club Nov. 19, 2021.
    The three horses, ambassadors for the fires community, served with the Fort Sill Artillery Half Section and their combined service to the Army added up to 37 years.
    Fort Sill’s command team of Maj. Gen. Ken Kamper and Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Burnley, Col. Michael Kimball, chief of staff, and the adoptive families for each horse attended the retirement ceremony to bid farewell to the horses named Dubia, Baxter and Shoffner. The families came from Texas, Mississippi and Kentucky to adopt their horse.
    The Half Section has a tradition of naming the horses after Fort Sill commanding generals.
    According to retired Maj. Gen. Leo Baxter, when the Half Section needs a new horse on the eight-horse team, the recent replacement acquires the last name of the current commanding general. “It's a long history of naming these horses after former commanding generals and it doesn't happen to everyone. So it's just the luck of the timing. But it's just sort of a nice thing to be remembered and have associated with your name.”
    Established at Fort Sill in 1963, the Half Section is a special ceremonial unit responsible for carrying on the traditions of horse-drawn artillery from the World War I era. The Half Section is an Army ceremonial unit composed of horses pulling a caisson, which has a howitzer on it. It has appeared in inaugural ceremonies, prior to the Rose Bowl parade, changes of command, retirements and various other events. It is one of the very few ceremonial units in the Army.
    Baxter said the retirement ceremony is unique to Fort Sill. “There is nothing like this anywhere else in the Army or anywhere in the world,” he said.
    Retired Maj. Gen. Wilson (Al) Shoffner, said it is a great honor to have a horse named after him. Aside from the individual honor, it really reinforces what leadership at Fort Sill works toward - creating a culture of values.
    “Values, obviously, are very important, not just to Fort Sill, but to our Army. Creating a culture of values is the bedrock on which our Army is built. It is great to be a small part of something that is much bigger than yourself,” he said.
    “Shoffner was chosen when I was here. Of course, he was named after I left Fort Sill. I had met him but I actually didn't ride him. I rode Baxter at one point but I never got a chance to ride Shoffner,” the retired commander said. “I'm very proud of his contribution and what I think about the horses is the same as what I think about service to our country -- it doesn't really matter how long you served, it matters how you served, and he served the Fire Center, the Half Section and our country very well.”
    Shoffner said the ceremony is an important part of carrying on tradition and passing on traditions is critically important to those that that come after us. Those who are wearing and have worn the uniform.
    “If you look at how the horses in the Half Section are equipped, their equipment and their uniforms, dates back to our World War I heritage. And so by continuing to have the Half Section support events at Fort Sill and other places around the country, we carry on the proud traditions of the United States Army,” Shoffner offered.
    , told it during the retirement ceremony.
    Of the three retiring horses, Dubia has served with the Half Section the longest. He is a 24-year-old American Quarter Horse gelding, who has been in the Half Section 16 years. He is named after Maj. Gen. John A Dubia, who served as the commanding general of the United States Army Field Artillery Training Center in Fort Sill, from June 1993 to June 1995. Dubia has been the primary Chief of the Half Section’s horse for the past 16 years.
    “Dubia is the one that is always turning around to see what is going on behind him, which I am sure he is doing right now,” said Mike Simmons, master of ceremonies for the retirement ceremony. “During his tenure, Dubia has performed in hundreds of ceremonies and parades. One of Dubia’s most notable events was leading the Half Section team during the 2016 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.”
    Baxter is a 26-year-old American Quarter Horse gelding, who has been in the Half Section 14 years. He is named after Maj. Gen. Leo J. Baxter, who served as the commanding general of Fort Sill, from June 1997 until August 1999.
    “You probably noticed Baxter performing as the lead near horse in the team during many change of command ceremonies. He's the one that's always ready to move, anticipating the chief’s command forward whoa, and pushing hard into the breast collar to get the team moving with the lead near horse, Baxter, as part of a two-horse team response,” said Simmons. “To maintain the team's pace and distance from the chief force, he was basically the gas pedal and the steering wheel for the team. During his tenure, Baxter has performed hundreds of parades and ceremonies, most notably the 2016 Rose Parade, where he had to maneuver along parade route with thousands of cheering fans. Like his namesake. He kept his cool under pressure and represented Fort Sill to the highest of standards.”
    The last retiree was Shoffner, a 16-year-old quarter horse who was in the Half Section seven years. He is named after Maj. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner Jr, who served as the commanding general of Fort Sill from November 2017 to March 2020.
    “You have probably noticed Shoffner performing in the lead off position. He has been Baxter's right hand man - or right hoof man - and his partner-in-front as they work side-by-side setting the pace for the team. Like his namesake, he was leading from the front, setting the standard for the rest of the team to follow,” said Simmons.
    Shoffner performed in numerous ceremonies and parades during his short tenure with the section but his most notable event was his performance during the United States Cavalry Association Cavalry competition in Fort Reno, Oklahoma. He and his rider competed in the mounted saber competition and they placed in the top three.
    Over the years, each of these horses have demonstrated a can-do spirit and their service records are impeccable. They even dressed up as reindeer for the holiday tree lighting ceremonies, but only Dubia actually believed he was a reindeer, said Simmons during the ceremony.
    Before we let them retire, they must finish clearing by turning in their equipment. Their handlers will remove their era-correct saddles and tack, symbolically closing their chapter with the half section. The Army regulation bridles and reins were replaced with a red harness called cowboy casual.
    Col. Kimball (representing Gen. Dubia), Gen. Baxter and Gen. Shoffner presented a bucket of apples and carrots to the horses as a token of gratitude for their service, a standard tradition at all ceremonies involving the Half Section.
    The ceremony ended with the 77th Army Band Brass Quintet playing “Old Soldiers Never Die,” “Auld Lang Syne” and the “Army Song”.



    Date Taken: 11.19.2021
    Date Posted: 11.24.2021 15:35
    Story ID: 410032
    Location: FORT SILL, OK, US 

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