GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- On June 30, 2010, at precisely 8 a.m. on Range 114 more than 25 German officials from the city of Grafenwoehr, The Bundes Forest Office (Bundesforstbetrieb) and the state of Bavaria, delegations from the German Bundeswehr, and the Joint Multinational Training Command gathered to commemorate the reenactment of the historic first artillery shot fired at the Grafenwoehr Training Area (GTA), which was the round that marked the birth of the GTA.
During the ceremony, Brig. Gen. Steven L. Salazar, Command Sgt. Maj. Darieus A. ZaGara and the Joint Multinational Training Command's Soldier of the Year, Spc. Timothy J. Murray, of the Joint Multinational Readiness Center's operations group, pulled the lanyard of the 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery's M109A6 Paladin howitzer, the most technically advanced howitzer in the U.S. Army today, commemorating the historic shot.
"A dynamic second century of Grafenwoehr history now begins. Since that first shot in 1910, Graf has continually transformed and improved, and its history is engrained in all of us here today, said Salazar during the ceremony."
"We at the JMTC aspire to be the most impressive, respected training facility in the U.S. Army. We are working with the Bundeswehr, our many multinational partners, and the city of Grafenwoehr to move this installation forward into the 21st century. It is tremendously gratifying to me," said Salazar.
The Paladin's shot blasted its target to pieces, landing with amazing accuracy - a perfect "bulls-eye."
Exactly 100 years earlier on the morning of June 30, 1910, there was much less fanfare, and a smaller group of onlookers and military professionals that watched as the 2nd Bavarian Field Artillery Regiment, fired the 15cm 80Z-howitzer round into the newly-established Grafenwoehr Training Area from Gruenhund Hill, located approximately where Range 114 is today.
"The 2010 artillery shot we fired today for this ceremony was planned in part with respect to the hundreds of thousands of honorable Soldiers who trained here in the past, beginning with the Soldiers who fired that first shot, said Col. Michael S. Higginbottom, JMTC chief of staff. "We are mindful of how we might be seen by historians in 2110. That being said, our responsibility and focus is always to the Soldiers here today - and to those who we will train here in the future."
The program also included the firing of a 1910 antique German howitzer and the remarks of Grafenwoehr Mayor Helmuth WAfA$chter, Bundeswehr Brigadier General Johann Berger and the unveiling of a new commemorative marker to be placed alongside the 1910 marker.
"The original 1910 marker mentions the first shot into the impact area was 800 meters short of its target. That didn't happen today," said Garrison Commander Col. Chris Sorenson. "One hundred years later, we hit it dead-center, and that kind of skill and ability doesn't just come overnight."
We'll never know if 21-year-old cannoneer Michael Kugler, the Soldier that pulled the lanyard that fateful day, or the other members of the six-man artillery crew, who wheeled out their horse-drawn howitzer knew that they were creating an enduring milestone in the history of military training, but they did.
Join the Grafenwoehr Training Area celebration of its 100-year history on the Internet. A collection of archival photos, video stories and commentaries, an interactive timeline and a special 38-page commemorative issue of the JMTC Training Journal can be accessed online at: www.jmtc.hqarmy.mil/grafenwoehr100.html