CAMP GUERNSEY – History teaches us where we come from. It can also tell us where we’re going. Many people may not realize that the Wyoming National Guard had a significant role in the Korean War. According to ‘Cowboy Cannoneers in the Korean War,’ the Wyoming National Guard’s 300th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (AFA) became one of the most highly decorated Wyoming units to serve in any war.
The equipment that enabled the 300th AFA to accomplish such a feat, was the Priest M-7 Howitzer. Manufactured during World War II, it was nicknamed the Priest because of its pulpit shaped machine gun ring. These M-7s were still being utilized in 1950, at the start of the Korean War.
The 300th AFA had just finished their annual training at Camp Carson, Colo., when North Korea invaded South Korea. The unit was called up in August of 1950 and they shortly found themselves training for war at Ft. Lewis, Wash. It was from there that they sailed to Korea. They fought until the war ended on July 27, 1953.
A piece of that history now sits for all to view in front of Camp Guernsey’s Regional Training Institute in Camp Guernsey. Visitors can walk right up to it, touch it, and get a sense of awe knowing it was involved in a war that Wyoming Soldiers were part of. The M-7 was restored by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Parrish, who was assigned to the project.
“I can only imagine what those Wyoming Soldiers went through, were exposed to, in those types of environments, working out of a piece of equipment like that,” Parrish says, “It really helps value the evolution of the equipment that we have now. Those Soldiers paved the way for us to thrive. Their endurance has helped us be the stronger, more efficient units that we are now.”
Parrish is a mechanic who works with the Combined Support Maintenance Shop at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., maintaining military vehicles so they are mission ready. He has also restored several other historical military vehicles, one of which sits in front of the National Guard Museum in Cheyenne.
Parrish spent two solid weeks scraping the M-7 by hand in order to clean it to a point where it could be repainted. He didn’t want to take the risk that the original paint might be lead-based, so sandblasting the vehicle was not an option. After that, he put on four coats of direct to metal paint in order to ensure the end result was going to last for a long period of time.
“I wanted to create the best representation that I could of our history,” he says.
For Parrish, the project was not easy. He hinted that there was a lot of sweat, and maybe a little blood that went into it. “I feel proud to be part of this project. I was glad to do it.” He goes on to say, “It’s a reflection and a representation of the history of the Wyoming Guard.”