10th Marines honor tradition of patron saint

12 Jan 2006 | Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson

Artillerymen from the 10th Marine Regiment held a banquet Jan 12 honoring St. Barbara, the patron saint of field artillery.

The history of St. Barbara and the traditions are widely known among the artillery community, but the same stories aren’t common knowledge throughout the Marine Corps. The archaic roots of St. Barbara’s celebration have been modified today and replaced with non-religious ritual, but the values of the artillerymen remain intact.

“The regiment has gone through changes, and we all know artillerymen can do much more than just artillery ” said Col. Glen Starnes, commanding officer of the regiment, “but now is the time to get back to our artillery roots.

With that said, the Marines commenced a celebration of their profession. The risks, the sacrifice, the pride, and the humor were all entailed in a skit performed by the Marines entitled “The History of Artillery.”

Staff Sgt. Patrick Rinok, a field artillery fire control man with Headquarters Battery, 10th Marine Regiment, said being in the Order of St. Barbara means, “you’re part of a select few of people who contribute to the artillery field somehow as a whole.”

“You can come up with new (Standard Operating Procedures) or new ways of doing things or getting things done better,” said Rinok, who was in attendance of his first St. Barbara’s observance since receiving this award for distinguished service, and thus being invited into the Order.

According to the legend still honored today by the Order of St. Barbara, St. Barbara lived approximately 700 years ago and was raised by non-Christians or “heathens” as they have been referred to. Her father didn’t want anyone else to see how beautiful she was, so he locked her in a tower and ordered a bathhouse to be built for her while he was away.

In her father’s absence, Barbara became influenced by Christianity and instructed the builders to put three windows in the bathhouse, instead of two, to honor the holy trinity. When her father came back and saw she had been converted, he became outraged and chopped off her head.

As Barbara’s father headed home from the execution, he was struck by lightening.

Over the passage of time, Barbara came to be known as a martyr and was invoked for protection against accidents involving explosions, fire and sudden death.

Early artillery weapons would sometimes blow up instead of firing their projectile, which made St. Barbara the choice patroness for field artillerymen. Both Marine and Army artillery units observe her legend similarly with a ritual called “The Mixing of the Punch.”

Units throughout the U.S. and foreign countries have similar knowledge of the patroness. The observance is generally held around the first week of December. 10th Marines pushed their ceremony back a month due to recent movements and changeovers within the unit.

According to retired Master Gunnery Sgt. John McIntire, guest speaker at the ceremony, there are two orders of St. Barbara, one being the original order itself, and the other is the Ancient Order of St. Barbara, whose members have contributed to the artillery field for a prolonged amount of time.

McIntire explained being a member of the order is good-luck omen that artillerymen will have, “luck, goodwill, accurate, timely and on target,” fire every time they send rounds down range.