Artillery Soldiers Stay on Target

“Port-o-johns out in the open,” rang out over the hand-held radios as members of batteries A and B of the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, moved into position.

While the “enemy targets” were simulated, the training was all too real for the Paladin crews who conducted a series of live-fire exercises, June 18 – 20, at Bani Rabia Range, near Al Kut.

Using their M109A6 Paladin howitzers, 16 crews from the two batteries fired a combined 104 rounds at targets some 5,600 meters away. In addition to training the howitzer crews, the exercise tested fire direction center Soldiers, who interpreted the targeting corrections relayed by forward observers.

The event was the culmination of months of training beginning in mid-May.

“It started with individual level training and testing, written tests, gunners testing as well as section crew certifications,” said Maj. Michael Anders, a Knoxville, Tenn., native and operations officer for 1st Bn., 10th FA Regt. “They have to go through a series of dry fire before actually going out there and shooting live.”

Performance evaluations continued throughout the final training.

“We have a master gunner, Sgt. 1st Class [Rodney] Howell, and there is a series of checks that he evaluates section crews on during the dry fire,” Anders said. “He and the platoon sergeants have to go out there and ensure those criteria are being maintained during the live fire.”

Also in attendance at the loud event were Col. Pete Jones, 3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf. Div. commander, members of the Wasit Provincial Reconstruction Team, as well as Maj. Gen. Kalif, provincial director of Iraqi police in Wasit.

The artillery unit regularly works with the Iraqi police in an advise-and-assist capacity.
“Our battalion, specifically, partners with the Iraqi police, the federal police, and the PRT,” said Anders. “Those are our partnerships.”

This mission requires little of the battalion’s artillery hardware, and the exercise was important in keeping the Soldier’s skills sharp during the deployment, Anders said.

“The live fire went very well,” Anders said. “The gunners fired real well, the observers were able to pick out the targets well.”