CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- Staff Sgt. Carl E. Chambers shared a night of celebration and storytelling, with fellow artillerymen of 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment during the St. Barbara's Day Ball, held here Dec. 4, 2004.
During the celebration, Chambers, the E Battery Company gunnery sergeant, along with three other Marines and sailors, was inducted into the Honorable Order of Saint Barbara.
"It was a complete surprise," said Chambers, a 36-year-old native of Earlsboro, Okla. "I can't believe everyone kept it quiet."
The Order is a traditional way to recognize those who have made a significant contribution to the artillery community.
The St. Barbara's Day Ball is the artillery community's annual recognition of their patroness saint, and is celebrated throughout the Marine Corps, Army and other organizations claiming artillery assets.
With hostilities continuing throughout Iraq, the artillerymen of 2/10 enjoyed a measure of normalcy as they celebrated St. Barbara's Day.
According to an early seventh century legend, St. Barbara was a pagan who converted to Christianity. When she announced her faith, she was sentenced to death. Her father stepped forward to carry out her execution himself. As the legend holds, when Dioscorus, her father, lifted his sword to behead his daughter, a flash of lightning flew down from the heavens, turning him to ashes with "first-round accuracy."
Barbara is believed to be the representative of those about to die without the sacraments. She is the patron saint of groups including fireworks makers, artillerymen, architects, founders, stonemasons, gravediggers, armorers, gunsmiths, and miners. She protects those in danger from thunderstorms, fire and sudden death. St. Barbara became the patroness of the artillerymen because many early artillery pieces blew up rather than firing their projectile.
In the Marine Corps, the ball is a time when artillerymen recognize the achievements made in their field, share camaraderie and professional growth.
"Here (in Iraq) we're doing what we've trained to do our whole career. That adds so much more meaning to this celebration," said Lt. Col. Terence P. Brennan, 2/10's commanding officer.
A Camp Lejeune, N.C.,-based unit, 2/10 provides base security for the 1st Force Service Support Group in Iraq.
Though they're not manning the big guns, 2/10 is still an artillery unit, and the St. Barbara's Day Ball is a time honored tradition.
"In the states the ceremony is a lot more formal," explained Brennan, a 44-year-old native of Little Compton, R.I.
The ceremony opened with a humorous re-enactment of the genesis of artillery, and featured a video skit, modeled after the 'COPS' television show, humorously detailing 2/10's work in Iraq as provisional infantrymen. The event also included an awards ceremony and the mixing of the "artillery punch" - a concoction of off the wall ingredients to represent different facets of the Marine Corps and patriotism.
According to Brennan, each ball is a special opportunity to celebrate the artillery field with laughter and respect for what has been done by artillerymen past and present.
"I feel very honored and humble," said Chambers, "Its nights like this that make me proud to be a Marine. Even in a combat zone, we can come together as brothers in arms to celebrate artillery and the Marine Corps."