JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Soldiers with 1st Battalion (155mm Towed), 377th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, gathered for an inactivation ceremony at Watkins Field, Oct. 23.
Casing the unit colors is a military tradition performed for a multitude of reasons, such as when transporting them to the location of a unit’s deployment. In this instance, the colors were cased because the unit is scheduled to officially inactivate in February.
The ceremony evoked a mix of emotions from the audience and the soldiers in formation. All involved with the ‘Gunslingers’ battalion, past and present, have dedicated a part of themselves to the success of the unit. However, Col. Timothy F. Kehoe, the 17th Fires Bde. commander, and a past battalion commander for 1-377 FA, helped put the event into perspective for everyone present.
“This inactivation, though not evident to all, will allow the Army to organizationally realign to optimize our war fighting capabilities as we must,” Kehoe said.
He emphasized that the road toward inactivation gave the members of the Gunslinger team the opportunity to spread their values and spirit throughout the units they are assigned to next.
“Gunslingers, you are now part of a legacy and should be justifiably proud knowing that you served honorably and professionally as members of [1-377 FA], and I challenge you to carry on the Gunslinger spirit wherever you go,” he said. “Take the lessons of unit pride, professionalism, your strong work ethic, and patriotism with you as you continue in your Army careers, and most importantly, continue to be bold,” he said, quoting the Gunslingers motto ‘be bold’ during his speech.
Lt. Col. Alan R. Wagner, 1-377 FA commander, spoke about the caliber of Soldiers within the battalion’s ranks during his speech.
“The Gunslingers have always worked hard, maintained the standards, but also had a good time. That’s what made this battalion good,” he said. “What made the Gunslingers great has always been the professionalism and audacity of its Soldiers.”
Wagner went on to identify some of the soldiers by name and addressed all the Gunslingers by saying “take pride in yourself…I would go to war with all of you. It has truly been an honor for me to stand in your ranks.”
Some younger soldiers, like Spc. Jon W. Knight, an Evansville, Ind., native, and a high mobility artillery rocket system crew member with 1st Battalion (HIMARS), 94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Bde., spent the majority of their careers as Gunslingers.
“I had to be here for this,” Knight said “this unit has always motivated me from the day I got here. I wanted to come say my goodbyes…it’s just really sentimental to me to have been part of the unit and carry that on as a memory.”
The 17th Fires Bde. leadership recognized the attachment that soldiers have to the battalion and explained why inactivation was a good move for the Army at this time.
“For some of our soldiers, this concept is hard to understand. As they see us losing a battalion, they see us also losing capabilities, but in reality we are just transferring these capabilities to where they are needed most in our [brigade combat teams],” Kehoe said during his speech.
Wagner went on to explain that 1-377 FA soldiers will always carry on the spirit of the unit, regardless if the unit itself is active or not.
“To all the Gunslingers out there, you know you are hashtag GFL – Gunslingers for life,” he said.