By Ben Sherman, Fort Sill CannoneerMay 24, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- On May 16 the U.S. Marine Corps Artillery Detachment commemorated more than 60 years of training Marines at the Army Field Artillery School at Fort Sill.
Marines have had a presence at Fort Sill for almost 95 years, when the first Marines reported to the School of Musketry in 1917. In 1925, the first Marine artillerymen entered the School of Artillery. This celebration commemorated the decades of joint forces training between the Marine Corps Artillery Detachment and Army Field Artillery School.
Brig. Gen. Brian McKiernan, Field Artillery School commandant and chief of FA, welcomed the Marines, distinguished guests and visitors who gathered for the event.
"Marines have been, and will remain at the forefront here at Fort Sill, in forging the next generation of Marine and Army artillerymen and Fires supporters," McKiernan said.
"I personally cannot thank the Marine Corps enough for all they contribute here to Fort Sill and particularly to the Field Artillery School. Quite honestly without the Marine Corps instructors the Army would be hard pressed to meet the instructor requirements needed to train our current officer student load," said McKiernan.
Lt. Gen. George Flynn, Marine Corps Joint Force Development director and Joint Staff J-7, was the keynote speaker. Flynn stated that there's a very special relationship between the Army and the Marine Corps at Fort Sill because in many ways, they practiced joint forces before it became the norm in the rest of the military.
"Early on we recognized here at Fort Sill that no matter where we were, there was never going to be such a thing as a crowded battlefield," Flynn said. "And that having interoperability, and the ability to work together was what enabled us to achieve the successes that we have mutually achieved on the battlefield. We had common doctrine. That is one of the reasons why the Marine Corps is so joined at the hip with the Army."
Flynn went on to relate his earliest days at Fort Sill as a young Marine lieutenant.
"My gunnery instructor wasn't a Marine, but I still feared my Army gunnery instructor. I still remember to this day that he wasn't a pleasant man. But the heart of Fort Sill is the gunnery instructors, where we make true artillerymen," Flynn added.
Col. Doug Thomas, detachment commanding officer, focused on the essential mission of the artillery school training.
"The Marine Corps, just like the Army, is the King of Battle. We shape the battlefield for our maneuver brothers. Everything we do as Marines is focused on the basics, on the Marine infantrymen. How can we best support what our Marine brothers are doing on the battlefield?" Thomas said.
"Every Marine who learns artillery, comes to Fort Sill. It started in 1925 when the first Marines began to show up here. In the early 1950s our presence here increased, and we established an official Marine representative here at the schoolhouse. Over time the role of the Marines has just increased," Thomas added.
Many former drill instructors and retired Marines were in attendance.
Retired Capt. Thomas Durgin first came to Fort Sill in 1971 to become an artilleryman. He later came back as an instructor and taught maintenance and logistics.
"Colonel Thomas and I were instructors together at Fort Sill at that time. It's a real good feeling to come back for this ceremony and see so many familiar faces," said Durgin. "To look at the young Marines coming up and hear the Marine Corps hymn being played, it sends a shiver up and down my spine. This is part of history."
During the ceremony, artillerymen fired 15 rounds in honor of Flynn and the Marine Corps by the Fort Sill Salute Battery.
Spc. Casey Jones, B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 2nd FA "Big Deuce," presented Flynn with a canister representing the rounds fired in his honor during the ceremony.
At the end of the ceremony, a monument on McNair Avenue was unveiled with a plaque commemorating the event. The monument is flanked by two fully restored 75mm pack howitzers, which represent the most versatile and famous weapon used by Marine artillerymen from World War II, Korea and into Vietnam.
Nicknamed "Little Dynamite," these highly portable howitzers were employed by Marines under conditions that would been impossible for heavier artillery pieces of the time.
Today there are about 115 Marines permanently assigned to the Artillery Detachment here in support of the Army Field Artillery School's mission of training Marines and Soldiers to be the field artillerymen and fires supporters in the world. More than 2,000 Marines come through Fort Sill each year for training.
"There is no doubt that the future of the artillery is bright, provided that we can continue to adapt to the demands of the new environment. We are going to spread out on the battlefield in the future. We're going to have new organizations. We're going to have affordable precision and we're going to have to be available 24/7 to achieve our objectives," Flynn said.