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July 08, 2011

Training

Fort McCoy site for 1st, 120th Field Artillery's 1st shots since 2005

Story & photo by Spc. Alex Hughes, 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office

The long-overdue blast of an M119A2 105mm light-towed howitzer filled the air at Fort McCoy June 18 as the 1st, 120th Field Artillery of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team fired its first shot in almost six years. The blast quickly was followed by the cheering and shouts from the section. The last time unit members had fired the howitzer was spring 2005, and then a series of deployments silenced the guns.
PHOTO: The howitzer section from Gun 3, A Battery, 1st, 120th Field Artillery celebrates as they inspect the howitzer cannon after a successful first shot. Photot by Spc. Alex Hughes
The howitzer section from Gun 3, A Battery, 1st, 120th Field Artillery celebrates as they inspect the howitzer cannon after a successful first shot.

“Some of the Soldiers have gone on two deployments since the 120th has fired the howitzers,” said Pfc. Jonathan T. Strande, a cannoneer for Alpha Battery, 1st, 120th. “Six years is too long. Everybody joined artillery for a reason, and we were all itching to get back on the guns.”

Sgt. Alan W. Sazama, a howitzer gunner for Alpha Battery, 1st, 120th, is a part of the team given the opportunity to fire the first shot after winning a Top-Gun Competition.

“We had to place a howitzer in a timely manner,” Sazama said. “The fastest and the safest to lay the ‘piece’ won.”

“It felt incredible to be number one,” Strande said about winning the Top-Gun Competition to fire the first shot. The competition was battalion level, he explained, with two units and 10 sections, “but we were the ones able to pull together and work as a team.”

Sazama agreed, saying, “We are honored to be given the chance to do this, especially when it means so much to the unit. Our entire annual training has been running smoothly, and the first shot being a success just topped it off.”

With renewed motivation, and high spirits, the 120th continued training. “We’re going to expand and build on what we’re doing here,” said Sazama. “The first shot was just the first step.”

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