The Army has awarded the first Master Gunner Identification Badges to a handful of soldiers, nearly 400 years after the prestigious position of master gunner was created.
At a Nov. 25 ceremony at Fort Benning, Georgia, seven soldiers were awarded the new badge.
"Today marks an important step in recognizing the hard work and dedication of our subject matter experts -- the master gunners who have committed the extra effort to enhance the warfighters capabilities and effectiveness on the battlefield," 1st Lt. Jeremy Hesketh, of E Company, 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment, 194th Armor Brigade at Benning, said in a short video of the ceremony released by the Army.
The Army finalized the new skill identification badge on May 8, 2019, but the role has a legacy spanning four centuries.
"Roughly 390 years ago, Samuel Sharpe was appointed master gunner in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, becoming the first master gunner on the continent," according to a June 10 article in the Army's NCO Journal magazine.
The badge is authorized for graduates of master gunner courses offered by the Army's field artillery, armor, air defense artillery and infantry schools.
"The MGIB acknowledges specific weapon system mastery and expertise that has been crucial to American combat success historically," according to the NCO Journal article. "By implementing the MGIB, the Army is recognizing the heavy responsibility that master gunners bear. They provide their units with an evolving mastery level of gunnery and tactics steeped in rich tradition significant throughout the Army's history."
The distinctive badge, which can be worn on Army dress and duty uniforms, features a laurel wreath to represent victory of the maneuver force. Inside the wreath is a missile to represent the air defense artillery branch, a 1795 Springfield musket for the infantry branch and a 19th-century cannon for the artillery branch.
The badge is authorized for soldiers who complete the Field Artillery Master Gunner Course, Master Gunnery-M1/M1A1 Tank Course, Infantry Fighting Vehicle Master Gunner Course, Avenger Master Gunner Course, M1A2 SEP Master Gunner Course, Stryker Master Gunner Course and Patriot Master Gunner Course, according to NCO Journal.
In total, nine soldiers from the 1-81 have met the requirements for the badge, but only seven received it at the ceremony, according to Sue Ulibarri, spokeswoman for Fort Benning. Here's a list of the awardees:
- Command Sgt. Major Brandon Petersen
- Sgt. Major Michael Steward
- Sgt. First Class Brian Gurnsey
- Staff Sgt. Kenneth Bowman
- Staff Sgt. Eric Gould
- Staff Sgt. Andrew Margolis
- Staff Sgt. Timothy Poole
"It's an honor to get awarded the badge in front of my peers," Bowman said in the video. "I just work hard. ... I love to train soldiers."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.