In a return to a more traditional Field Artillery structure, Fort Stewart’s 42nd Fires Brigade was transformed Friday morning into the 3rd Infantry Division Artillery.
The Division Artillery, or DIVARTY, will serve as a headquarters element in charge of all of the division’s artillery assets. The transformation underscores a shift in focus for the Army as it transitions to a smaller force and readies for new missions at the end of two prolonged wars.
The 3rd Infantry Division Artillery, nicknamed Marne Thunder, was inactivated in 2006 as part of the Army’s shift to its current modular structure based around brigade combat teams that placed a range of assets, Infantry, Armor, Artillery and support, directly under the brigade commander.
While that modular structure will not change, the division’s three Field Artillery battalions will attach to the division artillery headquarters for training and administrative purposes.
The change, said DIVARTY commander COL John O’Grady, reflects the Army’s commitment to restrengthen the core missions of artillerymen, skills that have waned over the past decade as Field Artillery Soldiers have often traded their heavy guns for roles traditionally reserved for infantrymen while deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.
“We’ll play a key role in reversing the continually atrophied Field Artillery skills, halt the erosion of professional and leader development for (artillery unit’s) war fighting functions and restore the art and science of synchronizing all Fires,” O’Grady said.
The colonel said the 200-plus Soldiers in his headquarters element will ensure artillerymen division-wide are trained in the same manner and are capable of providing whatever form of artillery support any commander might need.
He called that role a “sacred trust” between artillerymen and the Infantry and Armor Soldiers they support.
The transition marked an end for the short-lived 42nd Fires Brigade that O’Grady took command of a year ago upon its activation.
I can attest that one of the most difficult missions an organization can undertake is activation,” O’Grady said. “It is supremely unique and places a whole host of challenges on leaders and Soldiers... The Soldiers who’ve served in the 42nd Fires can be justifiably proud.”
MG Mike Murray, the 3rd ID’s commander, is especially pleased with the return of Marne Thunder.
“I have to admit I’m not sorry to case the (42nd Fires) colors one year later,” Murray said. “This transformation … will result in an increased effectiveness in operational and tactical Fires efficiency and support of unified land operations, allowing the division to better support combatant commanders’ requirements.”
The 3rd Infantry Division Artillery’s lineage dates to World War I, as well as World War II and the Korean War. More recently, Murray noted, Marne Thunder played a pivotal role in the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.
During the 21-day assault from Kuwait to Baghdad, 3rd ID Field Artillerymen under the guidance of the division artillery headquarters fired almost 14,000, 155 mm shells and nearly 800 rockets, helping the division’s Soldiers capture Baghdad International Airport.
DIVARTY’s return, Murray said, “will result in a more technically and tactically proficient Field Artillery Soldier at every echelon providing unrivaled fire support, just like that display during the march to Baghdad in 2003.”