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Day three at NTC

POSTED: October 14, 2009 10:07 a.m.
Photo by Sgt. Brian Partridge/

Coastal Courier staff writer Denise Etheridge waits for the Excalibur test firing along with Alpha Battery, 141 Field Artillery, 1st Brigade out of Fort Stewart.

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Well, I managed to e-mail one story to my editor about the 1st Brigade’s medical company, Charlie Company, by last Wednesday evening. Being computer challenged, I had help from several patient young soldiers.
So when I awoke to the sounds of about 20 cell phone alarms going off in the female soldiers’ overflow tent, I was ready for a more challenging day on Thursday. It was delivered by men with big, smart guns.
Second Lt. Kristren Kelleher linked me up with the guys in Alpha Battery, 1-41st Field Artillery for a special day of test firing.
The battery was headed to a firing range to test the Excalibur, a precision, satellite-guided warhead used in urban environments.
I have had little contact with guns, let alone great big ones that shoot large ammo rounds into the desert. It was an awesome experience, to see the firing and feel the whoosh of the vibrations and hear the booms — while wearing earplugs, of course.
The 1st Brigade Public Affairs Office loaned me a heavy vest and a helmet for protection for the ride into the desert and during the firing. I rode in a Humvee with Capt. Daniel LaBar, 1st Sgt. Tracy Gillyard and Sgt. Brian Partridge. Despite all the bumps along the way courtesy of the Mohave’s uneven floor, it was an enjoyable ride. I told the guys I felt like a bobble head wearing a weighty helmet and getting bounced around.
The soldiers assigned to escort me were very accommodating and informative. It was also nice to make small talk with them.
The conversation on the hour-long ride to the firing range consisted of the day’s scheduled activities, the artillery soldiers’ various military lengths of service and their families. I listened to the fellows talk about whether they wanted to own a pool and if they preferred taking showers or baths, and the types of tubs they’d like to install. Gillyard wants a Jacuzzi on his deck.
Partridge, in particular, seems the happy husband and father. He talked proudly of his wife’s culinary skills and how she’s always baking and decorating cakes and other baked goodies for friends and fellow soldiers. Partridge also said he has recorded a song for each of his three children so they can listen to their special tunes while he’s deployed.
Partridge, and most other men and service women I’ve spoken to, say being separated from their families is the hardest part of a soldier’s job. Fort Stewart’s soldiers and their families sacrifice a lot in the name of service.
After meeting these men and women of the 1st Brigade I feel a personal attachment of sorts. I’ll definitely be thinking about them this next year during their deployment and waiting for them to come home safely to their loved ones.
 

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