Artillery Marines celebrate 239th birthday in field environment
COMBINED ARMS TRAINING CENTER CAMP FUJI, SHIZUOKA, Japan -- After 10 long, strenuous days in the field, Marines pack up their equipment and prepared their M777A2 lightweight 155 mm howitzers for departure. The day marked the end of a six-month deployment which allowed them to focus solely on honing and perfecting their skills as artillerymen and artillery-support. The day also marked the 239th birthday of the United States Marine Corps.
The 121 Marines participating in Artillery Relocation Training Program 14-3 held a modest ceremony Nov. 10 to honor the anniversary of the founding of their brotherhood as a fitting conclusion to their field operations at the North Fuji Maneuver Area, Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji.
One of the opportunities to celebrate a Marine Corps birthday tradition was to hold a cake-cutting ceremony, which holds special significance to young and old Marines alike. The oldest Marine present is given the first piece of cake and passes it to the youngest Marine, symbolizing the passing of tradition between old and new generations.
“Our birthday celebration not only celebrates the accomplishments of our generation, but every generation of Marines before us,” said Lance Cpl. Michael R. Hoskins, the youngest Marine at the ceremony and fire direction control man with Battery B, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, based in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, currently assigned to 3rd Bn., 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program. “It gives us a chance to feel pride in what they’ve done and gives something to strive to.”
For Marines who have served for an extended period of time, this ceremony represents more than celebrating what the Marines have accomplished, but the brothers and sisters they have accomplished it with, according to Staff Sgt. Jerome P. Nale, the oldest Marine at the ceremony and a motor transport chief for the battalion.
“It’s not so much the ceremony; it’s the guys we do it with,” said Nale. “At my age, you don’t get to see it very often especially on the civilian side. This is a close-knit group we have here, and we don’t let egos get in the way. The Marines know what to do in the field and what their places are. It’s one of the better batteries I’ve been with, and the leadership has been outstanding.”
The closeness of the unit can be attributed to the amount of time the sections spend with each other each deployment, according to1st Lt. Michael R. Stevens, the battery executive officer.
“This unit has probably spent more time together than with their own families this year.” said Stevens, from Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. “You can see it in the way we interact with one another. It’s a close, family-type, camaraderie, and I wouldn’t want to see anything else from these Marines.”
During this iteration of ARTP, Marines trained on another continent that many were not used to, waking every morning to extreme cold as early as 4:00 a.m., preparing to execute live-fire missions from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Additional duties, such as standing guard, preparing meals for the battery, or preparing equipment for the following day, kept many awake well into the night, only to repeat the same grueling routine the next day, according to Stevens.
Despite these demanding conditions, Marines rose to the occasion to get the job done smoothly and enthusiastically for each event they attended.
“The tempo is very high for this unit,” said Nale, from Decatur, Illinois. “We’ve been out here (Asia-Pacific region) for six months. We’re going back to Hawaii in December, and then we’re going to turn right around and go out on another operation. A lot of these guys make about minimum wage and they put in a lot of hours, but that doesn’t bother them at all. You see them out here joking around with each other because they’re close with each other and, at the same time, they know when it’s time to be professional.”
The bonds formed at each exercise and back on base are the backbone to the success of the unit, according to Hoskins, from Everett, Washington. Though the Marines may let their stress get to them for a brief moment, they always remember the mission and their loyalty to each other.
“We get on each other’s nerves but we’re all here for each other,” said Hoskins. “We eat together, sleep together, and work together; sometimes we hate each other, but at the same time these are my brothers. We’re all here to work together; we’re all here for each other.”
As the next chapter in the Corps’ history closes, and another deployment for the battery draws quickly to a close, the Marines have grown even closer and have made lasting memories to share with friends and family for years to come, according to Stevens.
“This is my eighth Marine Corps birthday, but this year will probably be the one I remember the most,” said Stevens. “I have 119 Marines that I take care of right now, and to spend this time in the field with them and celebrate the Marine Corps birthday with them in this capacity is something I will never forget. Ever.”