Longtime University of Wyoming Cowboys fans will get to see the return of an old tradition during the first home game of the 2017 season today.
Every time the Cowboys score — or when the National Anthem reaches the line about “bombs bursting in air” — fans will be rocked by a shot from the M116 75mm Pack Howitzer, which is manned by Army ROTC Cowboy Battalion cadets.
For the past decade, ROTC used 10-gauge shotgun shell-sized blanks but will return to 75mm rounds for today’s game, said Lt. Col. Thomas Haas.
“The folks who have been in the community for a good long while, they’ll appreciate going back to the good old days,” Haas said. “Some of the new folks might be kind of wondering what’s going on.”
ROTC switched to 10-gauge shotgun rounds when the cannon was moved to the northeast corner of the stadium, where it was closer to windows and larger rounds might have been too loud or too dangerous.
“The cannon has been a part of UW football for about 60 years,” Haas said. “And I know there was a little bit of pushback about 10 years ago, when they went to the lighter loads, from the community.”
With ongoing construction of the Mick and Susie McMurry High Altitude Performance Center just beyond the north end zone, the cannon had to move, so the Athletic Department and ROTC moved it back to its original home, south of the field.
Slightly farther away from the stands now — and no longer within range of breakable windows — Haas said the UW Athletic Department asked ROTC to bring back the larger rounds.
“It’s a part of the atmosphere,” Haas said. “Fans expects it and the community’s always been a big supporter of the Army ROTC program and they like hearing the cannon go off when we score, so it’s a pretty big deal for the community.”
The cannon’s new home on the south end of the stadium rests in a more heavily trafficked area, but Haas said ROTC’s set-up is unlikely to inconvenience fans.
“Fans need to know that there is going to be an area roped off because with the full charge — even with the blank round — you definitely don’t want to be right in front of the muzzle,” he said. “And so, we’re going to make sure we’re taking some safety precautions.”
With the cannon sitting more than 100 yards closer to Grand Avenue, the sound will carry farther from the stadium, so even Laramie residents not attending the game should prepare themselves to hear a few loud blasts this afternoon — especially if they heard the practice blast from their homes.
ROTC tested the World War II/Korean War era cannon — along with its safety procedures — Friday.
“It’s been about a decade since we’ve put a 75mm blank through that Howitzer, so we don’t want to have any problems on game day,” Haas said.
A UW ROTC alum himself, Haas said he remembers the excitement surrounding the larger blanks.
“When I was a cadet here in the ’90s, the Howitzer was on the south end of the field and we used the full 75mm loads,” he said. “So, this is a kind of return to the good old days. This is actually a return to the way we used to do it.”