CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea — Salutes are a longstanding Army tradition used to honor an officer of greater rank. Most salutes involve a simple gesture of raising your hand to the brim of your cap or your brow. Take it one step further and add in 75mm howitzers, and you have what is known as a salute battery. This group of Soldiers are employed to fire cannons for ceremonial and high-level events.
Based on who or what is being honored the salute battery will fire a certain amount of rounds at a particular interval. The battery consists of four howitzers, each with a three person team including a chief, a gunner and a loader.
Capt. Ronald Penn, commander of C. Battery, 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team sees it as an honor for his Soldiers to be part of the salute battery.
“My troopers put in a lot of time practicing and ensuring that their movements are crisp and synchronized,” Penn said. “They know that what they are doing is in recognition and honor of a person or an event.”
Penn led his 13 Soldiers through a rehearsal June 26 in the 2-82 motor pool on Camp Hovey, Korea, where 11 rounds were fired with the sound echoing off the mountains surrounding the area.
The salute battery arrived in Korea two weeks ahead of most of the battalion according to Sgt. 1st Class Robert Woodward of Talent, Oregon, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the battery.
“The Soldiers arrived early in order to start rehearsals in preparation for the Fourth of July ceremony at Camp Humphrey’s,” said Woodward. “We rehearsed every day, to include the weekends, since arriving to Korea.”
Woodward said he is proud to be part of the salute battery and intends to represent the unit and Army well during their nine months on ground.
Spc. Michael Vanderbilt, a Virginia Beach native, volunteered to be one of the gunners for the salute battery. “This is such a privilege to be a member of a salute battery,” Vanderbilt said. “Its nature of discipline allows those that are part of it to build a strong sense of camaraderie.”
The most challenging aspect to him is ensuring that every Soldier is in sync which takes many hours of practice and commitment.
The battery left for Camp Humphreys on July 2. They spent most of the next morning working on commands and timing.
“Fifty rounds is no joke. Most salutes are 21 and under depending on the circumstances,” Penn said. “Not only is it imperative that we ensure the guns fire the day of the event, but that we are prepared to continue the salute without missing a beat even if there is a misfire.”
The day of the event, the Soldiers moved to the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division parade field where the cannons were lined neatly and staged for the salute. Penn had them go through another iteration of dry fire and then one round per gun to test fire.
At noon on the Fourth of July in Korea, the first round from C. Battery was fired. For nearly three minutes at precisely three second intervals another round was fired until all 50 rounds honoring each of the 50 states were complete.
The battery will serve as salute battery for 2ID/RUCD during the full nine month rotation in Korea where their skills will be used for a number of ceremonies.