Red Dragons make home on the range with families
August 12, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas - When Sgt. Waldemar Ruiz and his family decided to come back into the Army in 2006, after a break in service, his two, young boys didn't get much of an opportunity to get fully integrated as Army "brats."
Despite the insanely hot weather, for 6-year-old Ethan Ruiz, being able to watch his father's M109 Paladin crew fire during 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Regiment, family day in the field was "cool."
Capt. Gene Palka's Battery A "Gators" showed the crowd the fire power of the self-propelled 155mm Howitzer in front of a crowd of more than 100 wives, husbands, children, and girlfriends who all were bused to a Fort Hood training area. When the Paladin's rolled out from the tree line, the spectators cheered. Then, as they heard over the radio that they were ready to fire, they cheered even louder.
"It was very exciting; we have two boys, and we brought them out," said Dara Ruiz, Ethan's mother. The six-year-old was jumping out of his skin, "When are they going to fire' When are they going to fire'"
Each volley of thunderous fire was followed by the flinching of the unsuspecting onlookers. Even as everyone was issued earplugs, the parents of the younger children had to cover them with their hands.
"It's just really great," said Spc. David Humphrey, a gunner from Houston. "It's a pretty unique experience when you know someone you love is watching you."
According to Lt. Col. Terry Cook, commander of the "Red Dragon" battalion, being able to bring out the families and loved ones to their field training was "awesome."
"It's easier for them to see it than to explain it, and also, they feel a more part of the team. That's what it's really about," said Cook, of Freeport, Fla.
He added that forming a strong family team is the secret to his battalion's success.
"If we can make a relationship here -- the wives can talk to each other and the kids can know each other -- when things do go bad or if we have an issue. They'll be more willing to support each other and just help support our Soldiers when we are down range," said Cook. "We are a really good artillery battalion in 2nd Brigade, 1st Cav., but we great artillery battalion because of our families; they make us that much better."
Not only was the day about watching what the Paladin crews do, but also all the other "enablers" that make up the whole artillery team, according to Cook.
"Artillery's a really complex organization. Where it's not just the Paladin crew, it's the fire supporters and a lot of other enablers for that one round to hit the target," Cook said. "We are trying to get everyone involved - just try to make everyone understand their role and be a part of our team."
After the display of firepower, all the vehicles came back to their assembly area where food service Soldiers from Company G, Forward Support Company served a hot lunch.
"I thought it was a really nice idea," said Dara. "Especially for us families who are new to the area -- new to the military way of life -- to see what their husband and father is actually doing 'cause he always says, 'I have to go out to the field,' but we are really never sure what the guys are doing once they get out here."