Tradition Returns After Yearlong Absence

Last weekend’s game marked both the return of bulldog football and the reappearance of a Truman ROTC tradition. 

Though the roar of the cannon was silent in Fall 2014, expect to hear it at all home games this semester. Last year “Black Jack” was sent to the Missouri National Guard Maintenance Shop in Jefferson City for safety certification. During inspection, the Guard corrected minor discrepancies, added new gear and gave Black Jack a paint job.

“We are indebted to the Missouri National Guard for going above and beyond the call of duty to help us with the cannon,” said Douglas Reinsch, ROTC enrollment officer.

The cannon was nicknamed Black Jack in honor of General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, who attended the University in 1880. Although Reinsch is not sure when the cannon arrived, he suspects it was shortly after the arrival of ROTC in Fall 1969. Since its appearance on Truman’s campus, Black Jack has only been fired by certified ROTC cannon crew members. The cannon is fired during football games for touchdowns, extra points and field goals scored by the bulldogs. The cannon crew also does push-ups equaling the current Truman score.

“It is our way of ‘Inspiring Strength’ in Truman Athletics and supporting Truman and the Kirksville community,” Reinsch said.

Shooting Black Jack is a team effort. An ROTC gunner opens a section of the cannon, known as the breech, while the loader inspects the chamber, receives the round from an ammo bearer and rams it inside the breech. After the gunner and loader ensure the breech is fully closed, the cannon chief gives the command to fire. The gunner pulls the firing lever with a gradual, steady pull, and the cannon shoots. The cannon chief this year is Sgt. 1st Class Brad Watson.