It's a job they've done since 1942 and Saturday it all came to and end. The Oklahoma National Guard First Battalion 171st Field Artillery held a final fire ceremony today at Fort Sill to mark the end of their long-standing artillery mission.
Many who attend say it was bittersweet, because lots of families across Southwest Oklahoma have been a part of this historic unit. Commanders say this is not the end, just a transition to the future. It was symbolic for the soldiers, a day to honor, observe, and remember what the First Battalion 1711st Field Artillery has done over the past 65 years.
Captain Chad Binstock said emotions were running high this day. "It's like saying goodbye to your family and saying hello to something new, very heart wrenching," he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Scott Collins said the 271st Brigade Support Battalion and 120th Forward Support Company will prove to be indispensable even without artillery. "This is even more significant because we lose our field artillery status and we become a support battalion," he said. They won't learn a new weapons system but they will learn an entirely new job, a job to support other artillery units. "They really don't care how they support freedom as long as they get to defend freedom," said Collins.
Captain Chad Binstock says at first they didn't know how the soldiers would react since they wouldn't be firing rockets and bullets anymore. Instead, he says, they'll be helping in other areas like bringing fuel, food, water and other supplies to field artillery brigades. " If you can't deliver the bullets you can't fight. The war wouldn't last long and you probably wouldn't win if you don't have the support behind it," he said.
One of the hundreds who showed support for this final fire ceremony was Cathy Adams. She says her husband was part of the 171st Artillery Battalion so it was important for them to be here for today's closer. "Very bittersweet as the comments today, it kind of brings a little tear to your eye because its over but you know change happens all the time and its a positive change because its still a support battalion for field artillery," said Adams.