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.

Comments (13)
  1. Colleen Ottman says:

    Thank You Mr. Kline – it is the old saying: “If it is not broke, don’t fix it”! These men in the Fort Snelling Rifle Guard that perform many hours to lay our Veteran’s and spouses to rest need to retain these firearms that they have been using since the Rifle Squad’s inception. Let them retain these firearms.
    I will, also, someday be laid to rest next to my late husband and I do not wish any of these so dedicated Rifle Squad members to smash their fingers on a firearm that does not meet specifications like the ones they now use. And, for that matter, many of the V.F.W./American Legion honor guards use the same firearms. Thank you!

  2. TL says:

    Its rare that a republican does something right….kudos to Kline.

    Too bad this is even an issue. Leave the vets and their way of honoring the military dead alone. The military brass should know better than this.

    1. Dale Gribble says:

      Kline knows that we need to keep those arms in the hands of Patriots, where they can be used to defend against the tyranny of the socialist, atheist DFL and it’s plot to destroy our Freedom.

      1. Kevin says:

        LOL Dale you sure a nut case but always funny.

  3. Jack says:

    With no disresprect intended to any Veteran or those who support our Veterans, it is quite simple to learn the proper technique to operate the M1 Garand. My father taught me when I was 14. The biggest risk is getting ‘plinked’ by ejected brass or the clip when it comes out of the top. Simple training / re-training is likely to save a whole lot of money rather than re-equip the entire squad. Given the history of the Fort, the Garand is likely the best representative firearm of those who passed through its halls.

    1. Swamp Rat says:

      As one who was trained on and qualified with the Springfield ’03[all variants], the Garand M1, the Garand M14, Mi Carbine, AR-15, and the M-16 as well as other weaponry the Springfield ’03 used by the Rifle Squad at Fort Snelling is the best rifle overall for the memorial purposes it is used for.

      Yes, the M1 is easy to use when trained properly but as we, veterans, get older the M1 poses some unique issues. Thumb smashing, rounds in getting stuck in chambers, and general tear-down maintenance does pose a problem to the older, though well trained, veteran. In cold wintry weather, the bolt action ’03 is easier to operate and function with the rifle squad during ceremonies. Also, the use of the tried-&-true traditional bolt action rifle adds to the historic dignity and honor of the interment ceremonies that rifle squad provides.

      The Army should realize that Fort Snelling’s Veterans Memorial Squad is a very unique entity by volunteer veterans for veterans who are interred at the National Cemetery. It’s a one-of-a-kind organization that Minnesota veterans provide their fallen and passing-on comrades. Neither rain, snow, sub-zero cold, and just plain MN sloppy weather keeps the Rifle Squad[s] from their solemn duties and vigils for departed vets.

      The Army Department should let well enough alone, change their archaic rules, and let the Memorial Squad, here in MN, and those other memorial squads throughout the country be doing their solemn and reverent tasks for the departed vets. The Army is just wasting time and money over a non-issue that it snafued for frivolous reasons. Leave the rifle squad alone and honor our departed veterans.

      1. jackactionhero says:

        I agree, Swamp Rat.

        The bolt action rifle adds to the ceremony. I have seen shined up M1 Garands used at a relative’s funeral in WI, and I have seen the Springfield used at a relative’s funeral at Fort Snelling, and there is something about the coordinated use of the bolt action by the Memorial Squad that stirs me emotionally.

        Additionally, the M1 Garand doesn’t seem to do as well with cycling blank rounds unless modified for their use.

        1. Swamp Rat says:

          Glad someone else sees the light of ceremony and reality regarding the M1. The M1 is a great rifle but not for ceremonial uses such as funerals. Thanks for the comments.

          p.s.; I have had the privilege of being on ceremonial rifle squad details..The Springfield was easier to use with memory and precision for the ceremonies.

          1. jackactionhero says:

            What an honor that must have been for you.

            I was at my grandmother’s funeral at Fort Snelling National Cemetery on 30 Nov, and was privileged to witness the Memorial Guard honoring several of our fallen. It is an awe-inspiring site for me, coming from a military family.

  4. Give me liberty says:

    Dale Gribble’s inane comments aside.

    Anyone else concerned about the government going after a veteran’s organization ceremonial rifles citing little known code stipulations?

    So It’s ok to sell arms to Mexican drug cartels to gun down our border patrols, but how dare you have more than 15 rifles in an organization whose purpose is to honor those that have served our country.

    I’m just saying people, wake up before it is too late.

    Dieing to hear what Dale’s take on this is, er… I mean, I wish Dale would die.

    1. keel says:

      I assume that you had been drinking somewhat heavily before you wrote this incomprehensible comment…and that’s good. You correctly point out that people who have been sleeping at 3:18 pm…or have passed out…should wake up before it’s too late. I salute you. I have no idea what you’re saying…but I salute you nonetheless.

  5. keel says:

    BTW…although I disagree with John Kline on many things political, I appreciate his help correcting this silly action by the Army. Besides….both Kline and I are Marines.

  6. Brett says:

    Thank YOU, Congressman Kline, for showing some BACKBONE, and COMMON SENSE, and thank YOU, to the Honor Guards who volunteer your valuable time to show your appreciation for our Nation’s VETERANS, who have done NO HARM to anybody, and have CLASS, STYLE, and RESPECT, all too often, is missing from this area of the country. Keep up the good work, too bad more of our elected reps in Washington didn’t jump on this. This was a ‘no brainer’ but even Amy and Al didn’t ‘show up’. What gives?