FORT BLISS — More than 800 Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and their spouses came together, dressed to impress, for a night of camaraderie, food and fun Jan. 24 at the Centennial Conference and Banquet Center at East Fort Bliss.
The field artillery branch held its annual ball, commonly known as the Saint Barbara’s Day Ball, as a reminder of the field artillery’s rich history and to recognize the importance of the “King of Battle” in today’s military.
Hosted by the 212th Fires Brigade, 1st Armored Division, this year’s event welcomed members of the Texas Army National Guard, the Marine Reserves’ 14th Marine Regiment and the Air Force’s 20th Air Support Operations Group.
With the assistance of 1st Armored Division’s field artillery battalions that provided M777 howitzers and M109A6 Paladins for display, as well as the spouses’ contributions with the table decorations and overall setup, the nights’ events were well organized.
Col. Heyward Hutson, commander of the 212th Fires Brigade, welcomed the guest speaker of the event, Maj. Gen. Sean MacFarland, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss Commander.
MacFarland spoke about the history of the artillery here at Fort Bliss and how proud and honored he was to be able to spend the evening with the “Fires” system-of-systems Soldiers and their spouses.
He also spoke about the future of the artillery units at Fort Bliss and the vision the Army has for the branch.
After the speech, Hutson and Command Sgt. Maj. Franklin Jacobs, 212th Fires Brigade, awarded MacFarland with the prestigious Ancient Order of Saint Barbara. The Ancient Order of Saint Barbara is only awarded to those individuals who have made a long and significant contribution to the artillery community at large.
St. Barbara was the extremely beautiful daughter of a wealthy man named Dioscorus. Before embarking on a journey, Dioscorus had a bath house built for Barbara and locked her away in a tower to protect her from the outside world. Subsequently, Barbara learned about, and converted to Christianity, while imprisoned. She ordered the builders to add a window to the two-windowed bath house to symbolize the Holy Trinity.
When he returned, Dioscorus – enraged at the change and infuriated by his daughter’s conversion – dragged Barbara before the Roman emperor, where he beheaded her. As punishment, he was struck by lightning on his way home, resulting in her invocation against lightning and fire.
In the Western world, St. Barbara is also invoked for aid against accidents resulting from explosions, since some earlier artillery pieces often blew up instead of firing their projectile. Thus, she became the patroness of artillerymen.
Sixty service members were awarded in recognition of their hard work and contributions to field artillery by demonstrating competence, integrity, moral character, and going above and beyond the call of duty.
The Artillery Order of Molly Pitcher recognized 15 spouses of FA Soldiers who contributed to the FA community by supporting their Soldiers.
After the formal portion of the ball concluded, the lights were dimmed, and Soldiers were invited to bring their dates onto the dance floor.