June 25, 2005
By Pvt. Terra C. Gatti
BLACKSTONE, Va. -- As the cool morning air began to dissipate with the heat of the noon sun, Sgt. Brandon Prichard from the Chatham, Va.-based Battery B, 1st Battalion, 246th Field Artillery said, “The weather is perfect; the artillery gods are smiling upon us.”
Virginia Army National Guard soldiers of past and present gathered at Fort Pickett to bid a final farewell to the 29th Infantry’s Division Artillery long-revered “Red Legs,” affectionately nicknamed “DIVARTY.”
The event, held on June 21 and lead by Col. Will O’Neill, marked the deactivation of the Division Artillery. This moment was commemorated with a Final Fire ceremony of all 26 M105 Howitzers. On firing point “54 Alpha ” the guns lined up in a solemn single-line formation, and with one simultaneous 26-gun salvo, their rounds landed into the impact of Fort Pickett, Va. for the last time.
The 29th Division Artillery has units in Sandston, Danville, Martinsville, Chatham and South Boston, Va. as well as Massachusetts and Maryland.
In attendance at the Final Fire ceremony were many retired DIVARTY soldiers, including Brig. Gen. Terry J. Tyler, who was a second lieutenant when the 29th Infantry Division was deactivated in 1968, and later became commander of DIVARTY when it was reactivated in October 1985, a position he held until 1989. Tyler joined the Army National Guard in 1953, and after 43 years of service, 17 of them in a command position, he retired in 1997.
“I will go with what the military wants us to do,” said Tyler. “However it is sad to see something you were apart of [end]… It is always a sad occasion when a unit is deactivated.”
The retirement of the Division Artillery is part of the Army’s transformation initiative, leading to multiple changes within the active Army and Army Reserve components, including the National Guard. With the continually shifting geopolitical world climate, the Army must change in order to stay prepared for any contingency.
The reach of the 29th DIVARTY unit stretches from Massachusetts to Virginia. Just as DIVARTY maintains geographic diversity, they also attain range among their soldiers. And that diversity of the units is a combat multiplier.
As it relates to the cohesion demonstrated by the unit, “These soldiers are disciplined and better trained than some regular Army units,” said Tyler. Though these artillerymen are sad to see this day come to fruition, they are looking forward to their future as National guardsmen.”
Even though the unit is deactivating, the DIVARTY Soldiers will still have jobs as part of the Army’s transformation initiative.
O’Neill, the final DIVARTY commander, says he is “proud the 29th Division will be able to have a final shoot.” O’Neill also stated that he is “looking forward to the transitions and challenges that lie ahead as well as the opportunity to excel.”
“Today is the day the big red-leg in the sky calls DIVARTY home,” he said.
The 29th Infantry Division Artillery will be transitioned and colors retired on October 1, 2005.