After 27 years, the Great Bend-based Battery E (Target Acquisition), 161st Field Artillery, Kansas National Guard, will fold up their colors for the last time during an inactivation ceremony Saturday afternoon.
The ceremony is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Great Bend National Guard armory, B-29 Way, (across from the Great Bend Expo Complex).
Since its formation, the battery has supported field artillery units in Kansas and surrounding states by identifying and providing accurate target locations to supporting maneuver commanders, said Ben Bauman, KNG public information officer.
However, Bauman said, the KNG’s 731st Transportation Company is also stationed in Great Bend, but is not affected by the change. It will remain here.
Battery E will be reorganized into a platoon-size unit and transferred to the command of the newly formed 130th Field Artillery Brigade based in Manhattan. Bauman said of the 44 soldiers attached to Battery E, 24 will transfer to the 130th and the rest to other units, including the 731st.
These soldiers who live in Great Bend and other communities will likely not have to relocate, Bauman said. They will just have to travel to a different location for their training.
Battery E is equipped with special radar equipment that detects incoming artillery, missile or gunfire and its origin, allowing forces to provide counter fire, capture or destroy enemy equipment.
“The future of the Target Acquisition Platoon is an exciting one,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Carol Sprawka, platoon leader. “The soldiers will have more opportunity to see the whole picture of the battlefield from a war-fighting standpoint, which will help them understand the how and what other entities utilize the radar.”
The story of Battery E
According to information from the KNG, Battery E was first activated April 1, 1988, at Larned and Great Bend. From Feb. 21 to Nov. 1, 1995, the battery was mobilized in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, a NATO peacekeeping mission in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Battery E was mobilized again on May 18, 2000, in support of Operation Joint Guardian, a NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, and was demobilized on Dec. 21, 2000. The unit was mobilized for the third time in less than 10 years Sept. 20, 2004, this time in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
One group of 13 Soldiers was attached to a Texas field artillery unit, while a second group of six Soldiers joined with another unit. They returned to Kansas Dec. 3, 2005.
In 2007, Soldiers of Battery E deployed to Iraq again in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The battery next deployed to the Horn of Africa in 2010 with the 1st Battalion, 161st Field Artillery to conduct offensive, defensive, and/or stability operations to strengthen partner nation and regional security. They returned home in February 2011.
In May 2013, the Great Bend Kansas National Guard armory escaped unscathed during a round of federally mandated National Guard furloughs. The statewide, Guard-wide furloughs affected approximately 1,100 KNG full-time employees, or 54 percent of the total full-time work force.
The forced leaves impacted predominately “federal technicians.” These are full-time uniformed or civilian personnel who, for the most part, perform administrative or logistical jobs.
The other classification of Guard employees are “active duty guard and reserve” positions. These are guardsmen who also full time, but are on call for active duty at all times.
Both technicians and reservists can be deployed. There were no federal technicians stationed at Great Bend.