FORT SILL, Oklahoma, Sept. 24, 2021 – On a post that holds many enlisted and officer changes of leadership, A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery held one slightly different.
1st Sgt. Casey McCrady succeeded 1st Sgt. Francisco Alcala during a change of responsibility ceremony Sept. 22.
The ceremony was significant because it likely was the first here that included three donkeys. Joining the battery’s current mascots – Sgt. Big Deuce VIII and Cpl. Short Round VII – were Big Deuce VII and retired Master Sgt. Big Deuce VI.
“It’s a big deal to have these legacy mascots here supporting our first sergeants,” said Capt. Catherine Grizzle, A/2-2nd FA commander and mastermind of the special ceremony. “They’re sniffing each other, and it’s just cool to have that interaction.”
The commander also expressed her thanks to the Phillips and Burns families who each have a Big Deuce grazing on their properties in Elgin and Marlow.
“If you look at the lineage of Big Deuce, there’s probably never been more than two of them alive at one time,” said Tom Phillips, a former Army sergeant who was the handler of Big Deuce VI from 2003-2006. Phillips said Big Deuce VI is the first mascot who completed his full 20-year service commitment and proudly wears the retired badge on his blanket.
Phillips said he expects Big Deuce VI, who was born in 1994, to live another five to 10 years, adding donkeys are a little more stubborn concerning mortality.
“They don’t like to die.”
Retired life consists of hanging out with a couple of Phillips’ horses, eating a little bit of grain and taking his medicine, along with petting and brushing.
“Other than that he eats grass and does what he wants to do out in the pasture,” said Phillips.
Diana and Todd Burns own the DT Ranch in Marlow, which is Big Deuce VII’s home. With health problems limiting his service time, Diana, who had recently acquired a rescue donkey, offered A/2-2nd FA a donkey swap. Hence, Big Deuce VIII became a military donkey.
Diana is the ranch boss of their 53-acre spread and enjoyed the ceremony.
“It’s an honor – they call him Nacho, we call him Donkey,” she said of Big Deuce VIII. “To be able to bring him from a kill pen to this kind of life where he is representing the Army is just incredible.”
Diana extended an invitation to Soldiers to visit the DT Ranch and leave their troubles behind.
“Go sit out with the donkeys; this is my dream to work with the military and bring some peace to Soldiers’ lives,” she said.
As A Battery followed the script of transferring leadership from one first sergeant to the next, the three mascots had different reactions. Big Deuce VIII stood a parade rest intently watching the formalities with his handler, Spc. Carl Romer. Nearby, the mascot’s two predecessors clipped off clumps of grass contentedly enjoying the refreshments.