MUQDADIYAH, Iraq (May 22, 2006) " Six booming artillery shots signaled a change of command for Gator Soldiers from A Battery, 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery, 4th Infantry Division.
Capt. Charles F. Harmon III took command of the unit from outgoing commander, Capt. Andrew A. Morrison, during a mid-morning ceremony. Just as he had done several times before, Morrison, a North Attleboro, Mass., native, issued a fire command to his unit during his farewell speech.
"It's an opportunity that we had to work into our normal terrain-denial fires and normal operations," Morrison said. "It also lent a little celebratory kind of flourish to the ceremony.
"It was not the normal thing to do. It was not a military salute, but it was recognition of all the hard work these guys have done."
The commander of the 3rd Battalion, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Vuono, praised the Gators" efforts under Morrison. He said they did well despite being split between Forward Operating Bases Anaconda, Normandy and Warhorse.
"Under his leadership, the soldiers of this battery and team have forged an outstanding reputation by delivering timely and accurate fire and adapting to their environment by conducting constringency operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom," Vuono said.
Among the accomplishments Vuono cited were firing 379 rounds of 155 high explosive ammunition, conducting more than 150 combat patrols and maintaining a 98 percent operational readiness rating while posting an impressive safety record.
"Truly the greatest of their accomplishment was maintaining their discipline," Vuono said.
The incoming and outgoing commanders are swapping duty positions. Harmon has served as battalion effects coordinator for 1-8 Combined Arms Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, Task Force Band of Brothers, based Forward Operating Base Paliwoda and Morrison will be replacing him there.
Vuono praised Harmon, a Cherryville, N.C., native. He said he would do a fine leading the battery.
"He is a Soldier who has all the finest qualities we look for in a commander," Vuono said. "He is a proven warrior.
"I have the utmost confidence that he will take what Capt. Morrison has done and build upon it."
Harmon entered the Army in 1999 after earning his commission through the ROTC program from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has served at Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Kosovo, Macedonia, Korea and at Fort Carson, Colo., where the unit is normally based.
During his speech, Harmon said he appreciated 'the opportunity to command such an outstanding unit." He complimented the unit on its fine appearance standing in formation between two M109A6 Paladin artillery systems.
"Gators, it's been a pleasure getting to know you the past few weeks," Harmon said. "I'm looking forward to working with you over the coming months."