FORT STEWART, Ga. September 24-29, 2015 – Battery C, the newest unit of the 1st Battalion 118th Field Artillery Regiment was officially activated September 24, 2015 during annual training activities at Fort Stewart. During the activation ceremony September 24, 2015, Battery C’s guidon was officially transferred from Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. David Allen to Battery Commander, Capt. Jared Smith. Present for the activation ceremony was Col. Reginald Neal, commander of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and a former commander of Battery C, and the 118th FA. In celebration of the activation, Mother Nature brought rain and mist. The Red Legs of the 118th returned the favor five days later by bringing the thunder with their new M777 155 mm towed howitzers.
The 1-118 FA contains elements of the oldest and youngest units of the Georgia Guard. With a heritage harkening back to the Chatham Artillery and campaign streamers from the American Revolution and the War of 1812, the 118th FA is steeped in history. While Battery C is the most-recent unit, to join the venerable battalion, it too has a history dating back nearly 175 years.
Battery C traces its lineage back to the Irish Jasper Greens, an antebellum militia unit formed in Savannah in 1843. Three years later, as part of the 1st Georgia Volunteer Regiment, the Jaspers were called into federal service for the Mexican War. The unit was again called to serve during the American Civil War where it participated in the defense of Savannah and Atlanta.
As the 1st Georgia Volunteers m the 118th mustered into federal service for the Spanish American War in Griffin, Ga. May 11, 1898, although they did not see combat.
In 1916, when the Georgia Guard was mobilized for Mexican border service, the 1st Georgia served near El Paso, Texas.
Returning from border service, the unit was activated in 1917 for service in World War I and was designated for the first time as Battery C, 118th FA September 23, 1917.
Following the war, the unit served in the Georgia Guard until activating for World War II Service in 1940.
Battery C, and the 118th FA were deactivated at the end of World War II but were reactivated in November 1955 with the conversion of the 48th Infantry Division to an Armored Division.
Battery C was part of the 1990 activation of the 48th Brigade (mechanized) in support of Operation Desert Shield; however, the brigade did not ultimately deploy overseas.
The 118th FA mobilized twice during the global war on terror. In 2005, the battalion mobilized with the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to Iraq. In 2009, the battalion again mobilized with the 48th IBCT, this time to Afghanistan.
Battery C was consolidated with Battery A and B when the 118th Field Artillery deployed to Taji and Al Asad Iraq from January 2005 to June 2006. Shortly after returning from Iraq, Battery C was deactivated in Jesup, Ga. following the reorganization of the battalion. The deactivation was short lived, and on July 28, 2015, Battery C was reorganized and reactivated in Savannah.
Thunder and Steel Rain
Throughout its history, Charlie Battery has manned numerous artillery pieces. From its early colonial-era bronze six pound cannons to the towed 105 M101 artillery pieces of World War II, none were as lethal as the M777 155 mm towed howitzer.
The M777 is truly massive. Imagine an artillery piece the size of a comfortable motorhome. At 10.5 meters in length, the howitzer is longer than the LMTV used to tow it into position and the barrel alone is as long as a Cadillac Escalade. Capable of hurling a 100 pound projectile 25 miles using a precision digital-control firing system, the M777 allows Battery C to reach out three times farther than units fielding the 105 mm howitzer.
The M777 replaces the M198. A key advantage of the newer weapon system is its weight. At a svelte 9,800 pounds, the M777 is three tons lighter than the M198 and can be lifted by a CH-47 Helicopter. The M777 can also be brought into service three times faster than the M198.
Using the precision-guided Excalibur munition, the M777 can drop rounds within 10 meters of a target from a range of 25 miles. That means, if you are within 775 miles of Company C, 118th FA, they can reach you with 155 shell that produces a blast radius of 30 meters.
Thunder and Steel Rain
The historic first-firing of Battery C’s howitzers was witnessed by the Adjutant General, Deputy Adjutant General, Commanding General of the Georgia Army National Guard and Senior Enlisted Advisor on a misty morning September 29, 2015. The howitzers of Battery C, lined up in battery on the range awaited clearance for fire.
“Fire mission!” came the shouted order as gun crews leapt to their positions. In a flurry of activity the cannon crewmembers worked in a symphony of motion to aim and load the M777. Sharp staccato commands echoed over the metallic clink of steel and titanium:
“Charge one lima.”
“Charge one lima verify.”
“Ready prime, ready ram.”
“I see red, breach closed.”
“Ready, prime, stand by, fire!”
The gunner pulled the lanyard and with a concussive blast the M777 lurched hurling a round down range. White smoke broiled out of the breach as the crew prepared the next fire mission. Forty seconds later, a second round erupted from the cannon. The crews continued their firing drills until all rounds were expended.
The live fire was the culminating event of the 118th Field Artillery’s annual training at Fort Stewart. The following day, the weary artillerists returned to Savannah, as they have since 1751.
From six pound bronze guns to today’s GPS guided artillery, Company C, and the rest of the 1st Battalion 118th FA are a living monument to the history of field artillery in the United States, even predating the nation’s history. It is clear that this historic unit is not done making history yet.
Story and photo by Capt. William Carraway
Public Affairs Office
Georgia Army National Guard