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Expect Morning Booms Coming from Arlington National Cemetery

If you hear some explosions Tuesday morning, don’t worry — it’s just cannon fire practice for Arlington’s military neighbors.

The Presidential Salute Battery Platoon will be conducting ceremonial training Tuesday around 7 a.m., Arlington National Cemetery said on social media Monday night.

When the platoon has practiced in the past, different parts of Arlington have heard “booming” or “banging” sounds, depending on weather conditions.

As ARLnow previously reported, Presidential Salute Battery teams work together to fire howitzers and 21-gun volleys during the practice. The goal is to time the shots with a ceremony or song, but the guns were not always ceremonial, according to the platoon’s website.

The platoon is equipped with ten M5, 75mm antitank cannons mounted on the M6 howitzer carriage. Each gun weighs 5,775 pounds. The M5 cannon saw service in North Africa, Italy, and Northwest Europe from 1943 until the end of World War II. Today, the Presidential Salute Battery fires the 75mm blank ceremonial shell with 1.5 pounds of powder….

Ceremonies require a five-man staff and a two-man team for each gun. The staff consists of the Battery Commander, who initiates fire commands and ensures the proper number of rounds is fired; the Sergeant of the Watch, who marches the battery into position, controls the firing of the backup gun, and monitors the watchman and his assistant; the Watchman controls the timing between rounds and gives the command to fire; the more experienced Assistant Watchman ensures the Watchman stays in time; and the Counter, counts the rounds and signals the last round to the battery.

The platoon conducts the training in preparation for firing cannons “at ceremonies in honor of the President of the United States, for visiting foreign dignitaries, during official government ceremonies, regional celebrations… and while rendering honors during the funeral services of our nation’s fallen service members and veterans,” a spokeswoman said last year, noting that the training sessions end prior to Arlington National Cemetery’s visiting hours.

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