MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Rep. John Kline says the U.S. Army is reconsidering a decision to recoup Fort Snelling’s ceremonial rifles from the fort’s memorial rifle squad.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Army demanded that the unit turn over the government-issued rifles and exchange them for a different model.
The rifle squads have been using WWI vintage Springfield O3A3 bolt action rifles at the burials of veterans during the ceremonial 21-gun salute. Squad members say the rifles are safe and simple to load.
In contrast, vets say the M1 Garand, which the Army wanted the squad to exchange for, is widely known to smash the inattentive thumb when being loaded.
The Fort Snelling rifle squad has 45 Springfield rifles assigned to all five teams that comprise the squad. Administrators at Fort Snelling were informed that they have exceeded authorization under title 10 of federal code, 4683, which limits the number of rifles loaned to any veteran’s organization. The rules would restrict any unit to a maximum of 15 rifles.
Kline says the U.S. Army told him they are launching an inquiry into the decision. Earlier, Kline sent a letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh asking for reconsideration.
Kline’s letter stressed the “sheer volume and use of the Fort Snelling Squad’s ceremonial rifles.”
“The more than 100 Minnesotans who volunteer on the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad do so with dedication and devotion performing at least 50 funerals each week for our fallen heroes. Their selfless service leaves lasting memories for the families of the fallen, and I encourage the U.S. Army to support their worthy cause,” said Kline.