CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Artillerymen from throughout Regional Command Southwest gathered aboard Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, as a harmonious coalition of “cannon cockers” to pay homage to the patron saint of artillery, Saint Barbara, Dec. 4.
During the two-hour traditional ceremony, more than 200 artillerymen and their guests from the Marine Corps, Army, British Army and Jordanian Armed Forces enjoyed historical stories as esprit de corps echoed throughout the townhall.
St. Barbara is know for to protect patrons from thunderstorms, fires, explosives and sudden death. Dating back to the 17th century gunners, St. Barbara’s day has been celebrated by artillerymen throughout the globe.
“It’s about brotherhood and camaraderie and a nice taste of home," said 33-year-old Gunnery Sgt. Reynaldo Philbrook, RC(SW) targeting chief and Winchester, Calif., native. "No matter what or where, we will celebrate and have our St. Barbara's day, forward or otherwise."
During the St. Barbara’s day celebration participants listened to a reading of the lore of St. Barbara. Then Navy Cmdr. Edward J. Nash, a chaplain with RC(SW), gave an invocation before service members gathered to share a meal.
After breaking bread together, the guest of honor, Brigadier Stuart Skeates, RC(SW) deputy commander, spoke about his love for artillery. A plaque was presented to Brig. Skeates by Battery S, 5th Battalion, 11thMarine Regiment, in recognition of his continued support to the artillery community.
The fabled story of "Fiddler's Green" was read aloud, followed by the mixing of a ceremonial and comical “artillery punch.” The punch mixture offered tribute to the brethren of artillery stationed throughout the globe. The meaningful ingredients included exotic liquids and secret substances, to include woodpecker feathers, tacos, whole raw eggs, liberty passes from Okinawa and a horse shoe. British Royal Air Force Group Capt. Bruce Hedley, was selected to test the concoction and the evening concluded with everyone drinking the punch while toasts were made.
“Although we didn't do a skit, it's normally the best part of the night,” said Philbrook. "For a lack of a better term, (the skit) means artillery is the king of the battlefield. Mixing the arty punch is great because you get to honor all the rest of the arty community in a joking way. We use this day to have a little fun, but really to reflect on those who came before us and to come together and use forethought on where we will be headed in near the future."