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Last Round - Literally
Story by Spc. Finnbar McCallion, 444MPAD; photo by Spc. William Addison, 444MPAD

The 3rd Battalion, 112th Field Artillery is leading the change as Army Transformation restructures the former field artillery unit into the 112th Fires Battalion, modifies the former battalion from three batteries to two, and rearms its troops with the lighter, leaner 105mm towed howitzers.

So this July's Annual Training (AT) at Fort Dix was the last time the state’s Field Artillery fired their cannons and existed in its historical form.

“This has been a labor of love for us,” said the Battalion’s Commander Lt. Col. Henri Schepens. “We went from not firing for three years together, to starting to work together in January with howitzer crew training teams just learning the basics, to certifying the battalion.”

The transition to some is actually huge, it means putting down a system that in many ways is still pertinent today in modern day. "A lot of these guys grew up on these weapons and have used them their whole careers," said Sgt. 1st Class Dilok Boonmema, Readiness NCO.

As a member of the 50th Infantry Brigade (42nd Infantry Division), the Battalion is part of the Army's evolution into a leaner force.

But the story here isn’t about transformation; it is about how the unit finally all got together as a group. This AT was the first time in years that the Battalion has been able to train together as a group. With Soldiers on the border in New Mexico, and deployments in support of operations since Sept. 11, these troops have seen it all.

“When you look back, so much has happened in three years," observed Capt. John Aslanian, Battery Commander. “It all started Sept. 11; bridges and tunnels, power plant security, airport security, deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Germany and Iraq.”

“We’re glad to be back to our roots and you can’t help but look at our accomplishments and losses. I’m proud of what we have accomplished and how relevant the National Guard is in this role today,” said Aslanian.

This group of Soldiers is historically rife with pride, so much so that when one reporter covering this battalion’s final days asked its commander, “If this weapons system is being put out to pasture, then why would you train and certify on it,” his answer was “Because we are artillerymen, because we are Soldiers and this is what we do.”

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Volume 32 Number 4
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(c) 2006 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs