FORT KNOX, Ky. — Bryan Brown received several hugs, handshakes and pats on the back as members of 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery Regiment (Paladin) suddenly realized who he was.
Brown, who had served with the Lexington-based unit from 1999 to 2016, joined about 50 other former 138th field artillerymen, at the invite of leaders, to witness a Paladin live-fire exercise June 11. The unit is on a 10-day training cycle at Fort Knox.
“I miss it,” said Brown of his time at the unit. “I definitely miss shooting those pieces, too.”
During his time with the unit Brown had served as a crew chief, in charge of a Paladin squad. Unlike traditional field artillery guns that are considered a direct-fire weapon system, the Paladin is an indirect-fire system. That means the unit rarely sees the enemy when they fire on them.
Brown and the other veterans had come from different locations around the state and served in different time periods of the unit’s storied history. Prior to the exercise, they gathered in bleachers and listened as unit leaders shared the history of 138th.
The brigade originally organized as the Louisville Legion on Jan. 21, 1839.
The unit was re-designated and activated into federal service as an infantry unit in 1861. It wasn’t until 1917 when it became known as the 138th Field Artillery. Soldiers with the unit have deployed to the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
One of those who had served in Vietnam was Jerry Janes. He deployed with Charlie Battery in June 1969, and spent much time perched on Firebase Tomahawk as a gunner on the M109 Self-Propelled 155mm Howitzer.
“I’m familiar with that gun,” said Janes as he pointed to a Paladin. “It’s a whole lot more upgraded and computerized, but it’s still the same gun, although it’s lot easier now than it was back then.”
The Bardstown native remembered having to manually lift and load the heavy 100-pound rounds back then. He remembered a time with the North Vietnamese infiltrated the perimeter at Firebase Tomahawk. By the time the battle was over, the enemy had knocked out four guns and left Janes’ gun on fire.
“There’s a lot of story there,” said Janes. “When they elevated those tubes today, it was a bit of an adrenaline rush for me. I could go back there a little bit without any trouble.”
Command Sgt. Maj. David Page, senior enlisted advisor for 2nd Battalion, told Janes and the other veterans that it was an honor to have them join the unit for the live-fire exercise.
“Each one of y’all have paved the way for us and what we do today,” said Page. “This is my home and we cannot thank you guys enough for your service and the time you’ve given to this battalion.”
Brown said he and many others appreciated the invite.
“This is a about camaraderie,” said Brown. “It’s a time to come see each other, make fun of each other a little, and see how much has changed between us.”