Fort Bragg families celebrate legendary artillery military spouse Molly Pitcher
By RACHAEL RILEY | The Fayetteville Observer | Published: March 17, 2020
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Mary Hays' husband collapsed after being wounded on the battlefield.
In the midst of the Revolutionary War, Hays jumped on her cannon to continue her husband's job during the Battle of Monmouth, said Capt. Sara Roger, battery commander for Alpha Battery of 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
"The Battle of Monmouth continued on for hours, and she continued sacrificing her own life and service by continually bringing water forward to the troopers to try to keep them hydrated and in the fight," Roger said of how Hays earned the name "Molly Pitcher."
And Hays is celebrated each year in what is known as Molly Pitcher Day, said Lt. Col. Wayne Fogel, commander of 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
The regiment is part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
The day, Fogel said, honors "Pitcher's" legacy by inviting spouses and family members to check out weapon systems and equipment that the paratroopers use when training or deploying.
"When they come out here, it's not a matter of seeing it or hearing about it, now they get to personally engage," Fogel said.
For Evelyn Dean, who's been a military spouse for about 15 years and at Fort Bragg for two years, this was her first year to check out Molly Pitcher Day with her kids.
Her husband is 1st Sgt. James Dean.
"We had fun with the weapons and went back over there," Evelyn Dean said. "It's awesome to be able to see what (my husband) does each day."
Family members were able to try on parachute harnesses, fire blank rounds on weapon systems or get a closeup look at howitzers and military vehicles at the event, held March 6 this year.
Showing off one of the spinning radars attached to an up-armored light medium tactical vehicle was Sgt. Cody Smeltzer.
Smeltzer is a section chief for the radar section that is under the 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
The radar section consists of two groups, a mission essential group and a sustained operations group.
Both groups require a driver and operator per each piece of equipment to make a crew of four.
The mission essential group is where the radar spins and is capable of tracking enemy rounds, rockets, artillery or mortars up to 60 kilometers, Smeltzer said.
Specifically, a radar beam bounces off objects and sends the information to a computer for the soldiers to evaluate.
"And we can tell the trajectory of the round as it leaves the enemy gun and where it's going to hit," Smeltzer said of how enemy fire is detected.
Spc. Noah Ray, a forward observer, is part of a fire support team known as a "fister" under the the 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
"We're a platoon ... that calls for fire, which is you operate a radio, you find where the enemy is, and you call in the location to have munitions sent their way," Ray said, showing the type of radios and binoculars that are used.
Roger, the battery commander, said there are many other branches and jobs within field artillery.
"This allows the family to realize how diverse their paratroopers have to be and subject matter experts in airborne operations and in artillery operations," Roger said of what Molly Pitcher Day shows the families.
Staff writer Rachael Riley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-486-3528.