FORT STEWART, Ga – The year 1994 brought many Hollywood classics such as “Forest Gump”, “Pulp Fiction” and “The Shawshank Redemption”. It is also the year the M109A6 “Paladin” Howitzer was first fielded to the U.S. Army. In June 1999, the Army received the last of 950 M109A6s that it ordered. Over nearly three decades it has operated in many missions and campaigns across the globe.
On May 23, 2022, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team shipped its Paladins in preparation for modernization across its fleet. Glory’s Guns M109A6s and M992 Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicles (FAASV) were loaded on trailers as the battalion is scheduled to be the first in 1ABCT to receive the M109A7.
“The point of doing the divestiture is to ensure that we are able to field the most up-to-date, capable and modernized equipment,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Scott Stafford, the rear detachment commander for 1-41 FA. “This will also give them a more up-to-date optimized fleet to make sure they are able to be more versatile and more lethal.”
Over three days, 1-41 FA Soldiers loaded 18 Paladins and 18 FAASVs onto transport vehicles to be distributed to a refitting manufacturer. Although the operation was expected to be an all-day event, the crews across Glory’s Guns completed each day’s operations in just a few hours.
“Having the crews that we have and seeing them perform in both Korea as well as gunnery tables when they are given a mission and told to execute, they move out, draw fire and move close with and destroy the enemy,” Stafford said. “Destroying the enemy for this mission is getting the equipment loaded as quickly and safely as we possibly can so that we can make room for the new stuff and start preparing the organization to receive the most modernized fleet as well as welcome them home from overseas and pave the way for the future.”
As many of the Soldiers in 1ABCT continue their mission overseas, 1-41 FA became the first battalion in the Raider brigade to start the modernization process. That process gave Glory’s Guns Soldiers a feeling of excitement for the future and a surprising sense of nostalgia. Seeing the vehicles shipped off brought one of those crew members, Sgt. Emilio Serna, an M109A6 “Paladin” gunner assigned to Charlie Battery, 1-41 FA, 1ABCT, a mixture of emotions.
“I had my Korean rotation on the Alpha six and I did a National Training Center rotation with these specific guns and they performed well,” Serna said. “I've been on these guns for about three years now and it's kind of nostalgic seeing them leave because you've been on that system for so long that you get used to them. It's also nice seeing them leave because you have been on that system for so long that you know every little problem that it has and to see that we are going to be getting the new system of M109A7s is nice.”