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NEWS | Feb. 6, 2024

Field artillery NCO reflects on quick-paced military journey

By Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

For Sgt. Christopher Brown, the best part about serving in the field artillery is the camaraderie he’s found there. He serves in the Virginia Army National Guard’s Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Hanover, Virginia, as a 13B Cannon Crewmember. He’s been in the military for about half a decade, but has already experienced a handful of schools and both an overseas and stateside deployment. 
“I’ve really enjoyed my time in the field artillery and I’ve definitely had my share of adventures,” Brown said. As he’s gained experience and joined the ranks of the noncommissioned officer corps, Brown found himself a strong and needed member of a team, one that the field artillery can’t function without.
“Being a part of a team is very important,” Brown said. “When you’re in the field, the cannons can’t be operated just by one man. You need a team, and you need to be able to work as a team to get rounds out of the tube as fast as possible.”
Brown’s military career started when he was still in high school. He met a recruiter and, in his junior year, enlisted into the Virginia Army National Guard, earning a $20,000 sign-on bonus along the way.
“When I joined, I wanted something exciting and adventurous,” Brown said. “I thought the field artillery would be a good place to be, and I don’t regret it.”
He went to Basic Combat Training, or BCT, right after his junior year of high school, and said the experience took him out of his comfort zone and gave him a sense of purpose. He said he felt like he was part of something bigger and, by the end of BCT, he felt accomplished.
After completing BCT, he returned home to Thomas Dale High School in Chesterfield, Virginia, for his senior year, and was set to graduate in the spring of 2020. The pandemic altered the final months of his high school experience, but, in June, he shipped to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for Advanced Individual Training, or AIT. He was there for a little bit longer than usual due to COVID protocols, but by August he was back home, newly qualified as a 13B.
Less than six months later, just a few weeks before his 19th birthday, Brown was mobilized to assist civilian law enforcement with security operations at the U.S. Capitol following the events of Jan. 6, 2021.
“It was one of the craziest experiences fresh out of high school,” Brown said. “I was, in all honesty, barely an adult at that point.”
Brown said his time in the nation’s capital was a unique experience. It included long days and nights and “cold, 12-hour shifts in 30- and 40-degree temperatures.” But, Brown said, he hadn’t spent much time in D.C. before that and he was able to meet a lot of “interesting figures,” including Maj. Gen. John Rhodes, 29th Infantry Division Commander, who presented Brown with a division coin.
After Brown and the rest of his unit returned home from D.C., they started preparing for their overseas mobilization in support of Operation Inherent Resolve to provide short-range air defense against unmanned aerial systems, rocket artillery and motor attacks throughout the U.S. Central Command area of operations in the Middle East. On that mission, Brown used the Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar System, or C-RAM.
“The training interested me a lot,” Brown said. “It was an incredible system to work on and, so long as you knew what you were doing, you could rest easy.”
Brown turned 19 during his mobilization to D.C., then turned 20 while deployed overseas, and then, on his 21st birthday, just a few months after returning home from the Middle East, he traveled to Fort Moore, Georgia, and reported to Air Assault School. A few months later, after successful completion of Air Assault School, Brown traveled to Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, for the Basic Leader Course.
“For me, a career highlight was definitely either Air Assault or BLC,” Brown said, explaining that both courses helped motivate him following the deployment. 

One thing Brown wants people to know if they’re considering joining the military, especially the field artillery, is that it’s not always easy.
“The military has its ups and downs, but, much like in any area of life, if you can look past the bad times, the good times are that much sweeter,” Brown said. “I’ve done a lot of stuff, I’ve gone to Air Assault, BLC, deployed, both with the state and federally, and it’s been a lot of fun. I’m not leaving anytime soon.”

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