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JBLM ceremony reunites ‘Gunslinger’ Soldiers

Sgt. Sarah E. Enos Soldiers in B, C and F batteries prepare to fall in with and rejoin 1-377 FA, 17th Fires Bde. during their official redeployment ceremony Nov. 1. The batteries were operationally controlled by 1-26 FA during their deployment.

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Eleven months ago the 1st Battalion (155mm Towed), 377th Field Artillery Regiment, was divided in half as three of its batteries deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

On Nov. 1, Soldiers in B, C and F batteries, 1st Battalion, 26th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, fell into formation and unfolded their colors to symbolically reunite and reform the battalion during their official redeployment ceremony on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

While deployed, F Battery, 26th FA manned target acquisition radars, looking for incoming and indirect fire while both B and C batteries, 1-377th FA "Gunslinger" Soldiers fired at enemy targets in support of Regional Command East.

The units fired almost 5,000 rounds, earned a total of 94 combat action badges and were awarded 23 Purple Hearts.

The commander of 1-377 FA, Lt. Col. Charles Roede, praised the returning Soldiers, stating that they rose to the occasion, despite hardships and completed the mission.

"It speaks volumes to the ferocity of the fight and how well they conducted themselves in combat," Roede said. "I'm just proud as I can be of them and owe a great debt of thanks to them and their Families."

Roede then led a moment of silence for three Soldiers who died during the deployment.

Spc. Robert Bernier, who was wounded in Afghanistan and relocated to Brooke Army Medical Center for treatment, made the trip from San Antonio to take part in the ceremony. "I am honored that I was invited and able to come to the ceremony," Bernier said. "I am so happy to see my guys again, they are a part of my Family."

Later that evening, Bernier, his wife Jessie and daughter Layla, attended the 1-377 FA welcome home dinner hosted by the Association of the United States Army and the city of Sumner at The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse.

The Sumner High School Jazz Band played music in the background while Soldiers, Family and members of the Sumner community socialized with one another.

"This was the first real opportunity that all of the Families have gotten back together since the Soldiers have been home," said Tara Cates, wife of Staff Sgt. Brandon Cates, field artillery firefinder radar operator, F Battery, 1-26 FA.

Dave Enslow, mayor of Sumner, expressed gratitude to the Soldiers on behalf of the community.

Enslow added that unlike the years when young men were drafted into the military and everyone had a part in the war, today it is easy for the military to be forgotten by its community and the city of Sumner is making an effort to reach out to the local Soldiers.

Carmen Palmer, communication director for the city of Sumner, took part in building the city's relationship with the 17th Fires Bde.

"I think the entire community is very excited for a chance to better connect with our neighbors at JBLM and provide a "home away from home" while they are stationed here," Palmer said.

Spc. Josh Janssen, a young Soldier who sat at a table with his fellow cannon crewmembers, said he missed his Family, friends and good food while he was deployed.

"This year I'm going to spend the first Christmas in awhile home with my wife and kids," Janssen said.

With no known deployments on the horizon, the 1-377 FA is scheduled to slow down training during the holiday season.

Now that the 1-337 FA mission is complete, they turn their attention to their new mission, which is to reorganize, train and prepare for the next time they are called to fight and deploy.

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