FORT SILL, Oklahoma (April 26, 2021) -- Like any parent, Diana Burns was ecstatic when her “son” Nacho enlisted in the Army.
“I know he’ll get spoiled and loved,” said Burns, owner and operator of the DT Ranch Country, in Marlow, Oklahoma.
Nacho is a 5-year-old standard donkey who was donated to the Army by Burns. Nacho enlisted as a sergeant April 16, during a ceremony at Sanders Stable and is now Big Deuce VIII, the donkey mascot of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery “Big Deuce.” He joined Boer goat Short Round VII as the other live mascot at Fort Sill.
Capt. Marc McMenamin, A Battery/2-2nd FA commander, administered the oath of enlistment; 1st Lt. Samuel Willodson, A/2-2nd FA executive officer, spoke for the donkey. And, Big Deuce acknowledge his enlistment by eating a carrot. Dozens of Soldiers from the battalion were in attendance.
Big Deuce VIII’s predecessor Big Deuce VII had been medically retired because of diabetes, and was taken in by Burns’ animal rescue ranch. He’ll live out his days in leisure at the DT Ranch, she said.
Burns had Nacho for about four months after taking him in from her friend Rita Risley, who had rescued him from a kill pen. Nacho got his name from Risley because he was fond of tortilla chips. Nacho, like all her rescues, was like a family member to her, said Burns.
Fort Sill and the United States Military Academy are the only units in the Army with live mascots, McMenamin said. Big Deuce and Short Round are the face of Fort Sill.
“They do things like retirements, changes of command, promotions, and enlistment ceremonies, and we do local community outreach like high school graduations, and baseball games in Oklahoma City,” he said. “Their role is to spread the history of 2-2nd Field Artillery, which used to have donkeys and mules pulling artillery though the mountains of Panama.”
Alpha Battery’s mission is to support the field artillery training of Soldiers and Marines at Fort Sill, according to the unit’s home page. About 14 of its Soldiers, who are typically field artillerymen, also have collateral duties as mascot handlers.
Big Deuce came in as a sergeant so he outranks his handlers, the captain said.
“If their handlers do anything against them, they can be punished under the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice),” McMenamin said.
Conversely, mascots fall under the UCMJ. Big Deuce VII had been demoted for biting a command sergeant major during a ceremony, McMenamin said.
The original Big Deuce was acquired in the1950s by Sgt. Maj. John Sanders, who was given the order: “Sergeant major, I want an ass!,” according to a plaque at the stables.
The first Short Round arrived in 1988, McMenamin said. Short Round VII is the first female goat and symbolically represents women coming into the field artillery branch.
Big Deuce is a Military Occupational Specialty 13B, cannon crew member; and Short Round, his technical adviser, is a 13J, fire control specialist, McMenamin said.
Burns said she was proud Nacho joined the Army.
“He’ll be around kids and other people … and get loved and cared for every day,” she said.