Field Artillery honors fallen soldiers

1-37 FA spray paints the names on M777A2 Howitzer cannons

By Sgt. Keaton Habeck on July 5, 2024

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD - When honoring soldiers who've paid the ultimate sacrifice, many units show their respect in unique ways that's relevant to their branch. For the soldiers of 1-37 Field Artillery Battalion, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, it's no different.

The battalion spray paints the names of soldiers who died in combat while serving in 1-37 FA onto the barrels of their M777A2 Howitzer cannons.

"It's a tradition that's been around field artillery for a while," said U.S. Army Capt. Ryan Dombeck commander of Bravo Battery, 1-37 FA. "Our battalion commander brought the tradition back in 2018 to remember and honor our soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice."

The names the battalion chose comes from the unit's history as well as recommendations from veterans who served in the unit.

"The names we've chosen are from the Global War on Terror," Dombeck said. "Our unit historian has kept great records and we have people on our Facebook page message us making recommendations. We then cross reference the name with the historian to make sure everything checks out. Then the battalion commander signs it off and we have an SOP on the placement of the name as well as the size and font."

Since taking command of the Bravo Battery, Dombeck has added six names to the Howitzers in the past year.

"I'm very proud to be a part of this tradition within field artillery," said Dombeck. "Combined as a battalion, we've added names to each of the 18 cannons."

For Memorial Day 2024, the battalion used the names on the Howitzers for commemoration and remembrance.

"We plan on having our soldiers clean and repaint the names," said Dombeck before Memorial Day. "That way we can remind our soldiers that these aren't just names but are brothers who gave their lives to something bigger than themselves."

Dombeck hopes that the tradition catches on and other field artillery units do the same to their cannons. He also wants others to understand what it means to have a soldier's name painted on a cannon.

"I'd like people to know that their sacrifice was not in vain," said Dombeck. "We have this tradition because it shows that we remember but most importantly, that we've learned. We learned from losing those soldiers how to improve our training and our tactics so that we may lose less soldiers should they go into combat too. We carry them with us, wherever we go."