FA generations reunite at Fort Sill
May 10, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- Aged eyes scan the range May 3, as 1st Lt. Joshua Overstreet tells the crowd to put in protective hearing. A veteran suggests he simply take out his hearing aid. Rounds collided with Blockhouse Signal Mountain as generations of Soldiers from the World War II era through Vietnam gathered underneath a tent at MowWay Observation Point.
One hundred and sixty alumni of the Field Artillery Officer Candidate School from 1942 to 1973 and their loved ones assembled at Fort Sill for their 28th reunion.
They looked on as Soldiers in 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery, fired an M109A6, M119A2, M777A2, Paladin, Stryker, Multiple Launch Rocket System and Bradley Fire Support Team vehicle.
"We try to coordinate our reunion so we're able to come out and observe a live fire training exercise from 1-78th FA. That's the highlight for many of the people to come out and see the weapon systems," said Randy Dunham, FA OCS reunion coordinator.
The Soldiers were qualifying on the different weapon systems for their fifth week of cannon crewmember Advanced Individual Training.The trainees didn't seem to mind the audience.
"Basic training really got rid of the whole pressure thing. It's just practice, it's repetition. We just learn the job step by step and they do the crawl before you walk kind of thing. These last five weeks that's just what's been happening and I feel like once I get to my duty station I'll be prepared," said Pfc. Andrew Antretter, after running gun powder back and forth between rounds on the M119.
The Field Artillery Officer Candidate School was open here from 1941-1973. The graduates have been assigned worldwide and each have lived their separate lives after completing the course.
Dunham said he includes something new for each reunion which isn't difficult to do in a changing Army. This year the men tested out equipment in the Engagement Skills Traininer 2000. The simulator environment is drastically different from how most of those who attended were trained.
"We had a map and a radio and a pair of field glasses and that was it. These weapons would have been great for fighting in WWII," said John Fisher, class No. 16 of 1952.
Robert Bean Jr., class No. 19 of 1969, and FA OCS Hall of Fame inductee said although the weapons have evolved the importance of teamwork has not.
"You can see that it's a whole crew concept and it requires a lot of training for the whole crew to know their job and their buddy's job in case somebody goes down and it's orchestrated by the chief of fire or smoke."
Bean has spent many years off and on at Fort Sill, from when he was a child and his father was an aviator here to his military training in OCS, and ground duty using the Pershing Missile System. He reminisced about the point he and the many others were looking upon May 3.
"My fondest memory of this place is seeing Blockhouse Signal Mountain. I landed a helicopter up there about 12 different times with an [explosion ordnance] specialist clearing the helicopter down and there are so many spent shells that didn't go off and had their nose bent. The metal just deformed in wondrous ways," said Bean.
"Each year we induct people into the hall of fame for significant contributions to the military or to their nation or their profession," said Dunham.
J. Linton Jordahl, class No. 18 of 1967, and FA OCS Hall of Fame inductee. said his actions during his military time were no different than what the future Soldiers would do.
"I did what in the military and in the civilian sector what everybody here did or would have done had they had the opportunity. Anybody here from those privates on up is a potential Medal of Honor (recipient), so I did nothing unique," said Jordahl.
The veterans spoke with the AIT Soldiers and instructors after the live fire demonstration. The biggest change in the Army is more frequent deployments.
"The instructor said he had three tours in Iraq. I'm glad it's him and not me," said Arch Wells, Fisher's classmate.
Jordahl said through each generation of war there is a lesson and he shared the one thing that helped him and what he believes will help future Soldiers.
"Remember the mission. Remember the U.S. Constitution, remember who you work for. You work for the American people," said Jordahl.
The reunion wrapped up with a formal May 4. The FA OCS Hall of Fame inductees are on display in Building 3025, Durham Hall.