Assumption of Command and Assumption of Responsibilities cremonies also held.
Booneville’s National Guard unit underwent a unit activation Saturday morning inside the armory of the facility. The new C Battery unit has been chosen for a new weapon’s system.
Assumption of command and assumption of responsibilities ceremonies followed the activation ceremony.
“This is as brand new weapon system for the state Arkansas,” said Major John Chase. “The M777A2, which is an artillery howitzer. It shoots a 155mm projectile and has the capabilities of shooting over 23 miles.”
That’s roughly from the unit, located on Highway 10 east of Booneville, to Danville, or, as Chase notes, “We sit at Barling and we can take out anything we want in Charleston and probably reach Booneville too.”
The explosive the howitzer will fire, Chase said, weighs 98 pounds.
According to militaryrecognition.com, “The M777 is an ultra light howitzer designed and manufactured by BAE Systems. M777 is a 155mm 39 caliber towed gun which, through proven technology and the innovative use of titanium and aluminum alloys, meets the requirement for rapidly deployable and accurate artillery fire support.
“The M777 is the world’s first 155mm Howitzer weighing less than 10,000 pounds. … The M777A2 can fire Raytheon/Bofors XM982 Excalibur GPS/Inertial Navigation-guided extended-range projectiles using the Modular Artillery Charge Systems (MACS). “
Chase, a Booneville native and the 1st BSB 206th Field Artillery executive officer who served as the master of ceremonies for Saturday’s event, also said using such a weapon is well within reach for those who may to try it out.
“This is a 105 personnel unit. We’re still trying to fill positions,” said Chase. “Right now all the new soldiers we enlist generates a $20,000 signing bonus, and then you get free tuition into state colleges, so that (bonus) can pay room and board for a year or two.”
Assuming command of the unit is Capt Matthew Barnes with 1st SG Brian Prewitt.
Both said they will expect nothing less than excellence.
“We’re going to be the best battery in the state. There’s no doubt about it,” said Barnes. “You’ve got a new weapon system. You take care of that system.”
Prewitt first said he was humbled to heave the experience but regarding expectations, he was a little more pointed, “guys, we’ve got a shiny new weapon, we’re going to be the best battery in the state. Bravo Battery … they’ve had it for two years in a row. I want that to be our mission to take it from them.”
Arkansas Army National Guard Cols (ret) Jim West, Lance Tharel and Bill Garner, as well as Brigadier General (ret) Paul Gene Wisely attended the activation ceremony. Also in attendance were several high ranking members of the 39th Brigade.
Elected city and county officials and school officials from Booneville and Magazine were also invited to attend the ceremony.
Chase, since becoming the executive officer with the Booneville National Guard Unit has striven to reach out to the community.
In 2015 he led an informal meeting for officials spelling out the procedure to have the unit activated in response to a natural disaster, such as an ice storm, tornado, floods such as the one in late December of 2015, search and rescue or other event.
Booneville’s National Guard unit has a storied history of service and will be recognizing it’s 70th anniversary this year.
Also among those in attendance Saturday was Sgt Maj (ret) Billy Bob Cauthron of Booneville. Cauthron was one of the first five recruits of the unit in 1948 and served 42 years in the Guard, all in the Booneville unit.
“His last two weeks we completed air defense transition training with us,” West recalled. “His mandatory retirement hit on the middle weekend and he stayed and trained with us the last week without pay, traveling back with me in my pickup. He’s a great soldier.”
A monumet honoring the members of the 217th Medical Collecting Co (Sep) for their service in the Korean War from 1950-1952 has been placed in front of the armory. Recognized on the stone are Capt Cecil Trowbridge and Dale Dempsey, the 1st Sgt.
A previous armory was given to the school system and is now used as the home of the Boys & Girls Club of South Logan County.
The unit’s current armory has also been used for a variety for events including a backup for the Relay for Life, wrestling events and circuses.
In 2006 a half dozen men from the Booneville unit were attached to the 875th Engineer Battalion and were sent to Iraq.
One of 57 across the state, the full unit, then the 142nd Fires Brigade, was placed on alert in 2007 and eventually deployed to Iraq with the 39th Infantry Brigade.
A brief history
of C Battery
The history of C Battery of the 1st 206th Field Artillery, is long, and distinguished, Chase noted during Saturday’s ceremony.
“The 141st Machine Gun Battalion, which is the beginning of this whole unit, had time in World War I (and) World War II. The history is, a flip of a nickle sent this unit to the Aleutian Islands and sent a Nevada National Guard Unit to Bataan, so the Bataan Death March, that’s how close we were,” said Chase.
• Charlie “C” Battery origins date to birth of the newly formed 206th Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft) which was reorganized from the 141st Machine Gun Battalion
• In 1932, Battery C’s home station began at Jonesboro, Arkansas State College
• In 1942, 206th deployed into World War II and served in the Aleutian Island campaign mostly know for the Battle of Dutch Harbor. After World War II the regiment underwent several consolidations and reorganizations.
• Battery C’s, 206th Coast Artillery monument resides in Jonesboro today and includes the names of several former 206th Coast Artillery members who were killed in action with other units after the breakup of the 206th Coast Artillery Regiment in 1944
• In 1946, 206th Coast Artillery was reconstituted and designated as the 437 Field Artillery Battalion and Battery C at Dumas and the 445 Field Artillery with Battery C at Brinkley.
• In 1959, Headquarter and Headquarters Battery, 206th Coast Artillery, and the 437the and 445the Field Artillery Battalions were consolidated to form the 206th Artillery, a parent regiment under the Combat Arms Regimental System.
• In 1967, 5th of the 206th Field Artillery was born with Battery C at Harrisburg.
• In 1996, 5th of the 206th Field Artillery was consolidated with the 217th Maintenance and the 233rd Air Defense Artillery Battalions and the consolidated unit was designated as the 1st Battalion, 206th Field Artillery with headquarters in Russellville and Battery C located at Dardanelle.
• In 2001 1st Battalion deployed a 70-man detachment of Battery C to secure the Arkansas Nuclear One power plant at Russellville in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
• In 2003, after notification, the 206th FA began movement and training preparations to deploy with the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, as an element of the 1st Calvary Division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. At this time 1st Battalion adopted the nickname “Aleutian” as the unit’s fixed Call sign. By the beginning of 2004, the 206th FA had been designated as the 39th Brigade main effort and occupied Camp Taji, Iraq to relieve the 3rd BCT of 1st Armor Division.
• In 2006, Battery C was then deactivated and consolidated into Battery B and Battery A.