Rough Road To The Home Of The Gunners
Welcome, to the Volta Barracks, Ghana The Home of the Ancient Order of Field Artillerists We are proud members of the Historical Brotherhood of Stone hurlers, Archers, Catapulters, Rocketeers Now referred to as GUNNERS.
With these impressive, valiant and proud words, the visitor is welcomed to the Volta Barracks, Ho, in the Volta Region.
This is the home of the 66 Artillery Regiment of the Ghana Army. The unit came into existence on February 16, 1966 to enhance the fire power of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) and was called the Medium Mortar Regiment (MMR), under the command of Captain Ekow Jones.
On June 3, 2003, the unit was upgraded with more artillery weapons, including the 107mm RL, the 122mm Howitzer and the 122mm MRLS and its name changed to the 66 Artillery Regiment.
Like any other unit of the GAF, the 66 Artillery Regiment has, as its mission, to protect and defend the territorial sovereignty and integrity of the Motherland.
The unit no doubt, is one of the elite units in the GAF and had and continues to have some of the finest officers and brave men in uniform this country ever produced who have a distinguished record of achievements at both national and international levels.
Officers and men of the 66 Artillery Regiment have left an impressive mark on their peacekeeping operations throughout the world.
It will be an arduous task trying to mention names, since there will be that natural tendency of leaving out some important ones.
However, as an illustration, one can, without any fear of diluting the menu, mention Lt General Seth Kofi Obeng, the immediate past Chief of the Defence Staff of the GAF, who, as a Gunner, was one time the Commanding Officer of the then MMR.
The presence of detachments of the unit is always conspicuous at ceremonial parades at the Independence Square in Accra and their home base in Ho, with their heavy guns and, lately, the multiple missile launchers.
Whoever chose the location of the Volta Barracks in Ho has a good taste for scenic beauty.
Straddling between Ho-Dome and Takla, which shares boundaries with Hodzo and Kpenoe, the barracks is perched on a hill overlooking the town below.
The first-time visitor cannot but admire the neatly-mowed green lawns which welcome him to the home of the Gunners as he/she enters the wide gates of the entrance to the barracks.
Many can only imagine seeing cannons and metal devices designed to kill in a military establishment such as the Volta Barracks.
Far from that! Unless you are told, on a normal day you may mistake the barracks for a sanatorium where the sick come to convalesce for its greenery, freshness, neatness and quietness.
The officers and men of the 66 Artillery Regiment have historically maintained a kind of umbilical relationship with the inhabitants of Ho in particular and the Volta Region in general.
As the only military establishment in the region with such a huge reputation, the people of the Volta Region have accepted the soldiers as part of them and the soldiers who set foot there hardly think of any other place as home.
Ask Lt Col Ekow Jones, the first Commanding Officer of the unit, who virtually became a citizen of Ho.
This natural bond has been strengthened by social activities such as clean-up campaigns and blood donations embarked upon periodically by the soldiers.
The Supreme Cannons, which is the resident band of the unit, is always available to satisfy the entertainment needs of the community.
That is not to say there have been no misunderstandings. There were times when revolutionary zeal took the better part of the soldiers who became too harsh on law breakers, especially during the so-called revolutionary era.
Troops from the unit were quick to respond to emergency situations such as the escalation of violence in volatile land disputes between the people of Tsito/Peki and Alavanyo/Nkonya.
The 66 Artillery Regiment is a unit any military establishment will be proud of and the Volta Barracks, the home of the Gunners, should be an attraction to all. Unfortunately, the journey to the barracks can be nightmarish.
I do not know whether it is deliberate to remind the soldiers and members of the public that military work is not a smooth one and, therefore, driving on a well-paved road to the barracks is itself a luxury that should not be encouraged.
I would have settled for this argument if all roads leading to the country's other military establishments share common features with that of the Volta Barracks.
It is a short distance that cannot be more than two kilometres, starting from the Ho-Dome Roundabout.
The road to the Volta Barracks, which houses one of the country's most powerful military units, cannot be better than a farm road used mostly by tractors which do not deserve a well-tarred road. Nobody driving on that road will have an inkling of the fact that he/she is heading towards a military installation which holds strategic importance to the security of the state.
It could be just another miserable road leading to nowhere.
The deep potholes give the impression of a road that has come under a barrage of mortar fire.
Heaps of sand and chippings that gave hope that the road was going to be constructed have themselves become obstacles that must be surmounted before grabbing a fair share of the mumbo-jumbo road.
This cannot be a question of a lack of funds.
A well-constructed two-kilometre road from the Ho-Dome Roundabout to the Volta Barracks should not be too much for the sovereign state of Ghana which derives pride from it military.
For now, the GUNNERS have been neglected and treated with scorn, thereby diminishing their national importance.
The poor nature of the Volta Barracks road is just the story of Ho, the regional capital. I have heard the Regional Minister, Mr Kofi Dzamesi, praising Ho town roads at every opportunity.
Well, someone may say something is better than nothing. But for a regional capital, Ho lacks roads.
A short stretch of road from the Ho-Dome Roundabout to the Ahoe-Heve Roundabout, which is less than a kilometre, has taken more than three years to construct, without any sign of completion.
Other regional capitals have asphalted dual carriageways. If Ho cannot get asphalt, why not the good old bitumen on its roads? A good road can never be hidden.
It will be there for everyone to see and every motorist to drive on. Ho has the potential of becoming a beautiful town that can attract investors and ordinary visitors if only those who have the power will show a little more interest in its development.
There are a lot of roads earmarked for construction, which, when done, can raise the status of the town and encourage more people to invest in it in particular and the municipality in general.
A beautiful hotel called Executive Gardens, which had the potential to promote tourism and commercial activity in Ho, has virtually collapsed because those who matter do not see the need to improve the Ho-Adaklu Road and thus open up the hotel to visitors.
Ho has a naturally endowed beautiful landscape and a hospitable people who sometimes accept their fate rather too quietly. Sometimes, out of desperation, the people of the town wonder aloud whether they are part of this progressive nation called Ghana.
The Volta Barracks is actually part of Ho, the Volta Regional capital, and its fate cannot be detached from that of the town.
It is, therefore, not out of order to say that the Volta Barracks is suffering from a disease called NEGLECT that has afflicted its mother.
To the officers and men of the 66 Artillery Regiment, good road or no good road, I know they will continue to live by their proud motto: “Once a GUNNER, Always a GUNNER”, and their battle cry:
“Where there is ARTILLERY, there is GLORY”.