By Capt. Matthew PargettOctober 28, 2019
FORT POLK, La. (Oct. 23, 2019) - On October 22, 1917, the artillerymen of Battery C, 6th Field Artillery Regiment were preparing firing positions near the French town of Bathlemont, to ready for the imminent battle against the Germans. The battery commander, Capt. Idus R. McLendon, ordered his men to move a 75 mm, M1897 artillery piece to a new position. Through mud, under the cover of darkness, and wearing gas masks to protect them from the lingering German attacks, they moved the 3,400-pound gun, by hand, into firing position. At first light, McLendon gave the command to fire, and the first American artillery round of World War I was sent downrange.
The round impacted at sunrise on October 23, 1917. 102 years later, as the sun was rising over Peason Ridge at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment was remembering their World War I forbearers as they prepared to enter their live-fire exercise. As the sun breached the horizon, they initiated the attack for the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division training rotation.
Each year 3 Bn., 6th FA Reg. makes an effort to remember those who came before them and the world-changing challenges they fought to overcome. Though these remembrances are usually held in formal ceremonies, the unit couldn't let the anniversary pass without paying homage to those who earned some of the first streamers on their guidon.
"It's always important to remember the contributions of those who came before us because they all have played a part in building our history," said Lt. Col. Brandan Rooney, commander of 3 Bn., 6th FA Reg.
As one of the Army's premiere training centers, JRTC isn't often the location chosen for a World War I remembrance. The challenges of the training environment not only presented obstacles to hosting such a tribute, but also a unique opportunity to re-enact a historic event. According to Lt. Col. Rooney, it offered the perfect chance to understand the sacrifice of those World War I Soldiers from a perspective that is best experienced when living in similar conditions.
"Shared hardship forges men and women into a cohesive unit," Rooney said. "It's amazing when you look at what those Soldiers did in order to get into position to fire. They understood the end-state, and were able to overcome the physical demands to accomplish the task. Privation is extremely important in today's modern training because it alleviates doubts in individuals and units-both will meet high expectations when given the opportunity. The more the unit succeeds, [the more] confidence is built to meet those expectations."
As the artillery battalion continues to train at JRTC, its Soldiers are learning about the hard work and effort that goes into reaching an objective successfully. Although they may not be fighting through the trenches of World War I like their forbearers, they are walking in the footsteps of history as they prepare for the future.