Back with a BOOM!
December 10, 2008
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - While the artillerymen from 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment were kicking in doors and patrolling the streets of Iraq like infantry Soldiers last year, their beloved Howitzers were locked up safe back at Fort Bragg.
But now that they are home, the "Black Falcons" are getting reacquainted with their big guns.
The battalion conducted platoon validation exercises during the first two weeks of December to make sure all the sections were qualified on their core mission tasks.
"We're being validated to make sure we can operate smoothly as a team and that we are competent to fire live in combat," said Staff Sgt. Andrew Ellis, a section chief with the battalion's Alpha Battery.
During the training, each platoon had to successfully complete several timed tasks crucial for putting accurate rounds downrange.
"You don't just emplace, point your tube downrange, and start shooting," said Sgt. Daniel Perez, a gunner with Alpha Battery, "there's a lot of data that has to be set off."
One of the ways the platoons were evaluated was on their ability to conduct what's known as a "Six-Minute Drill."
"From the time we stop in position and get prepared for action to the time we call 'In Order,' which means we have established our firing capability, we have six minutes," Ellis said.
Considering each M119A2 105mm Howitzer weighs more than 4,000 pounds and requires dozens of precise calibrations, emplacing and operating the gun is no mean feat for any artillery section. The challenge was even greater for the Black Falcons given the 15 months they spent apart from their guns.
"It's been a year and a half since we touched them, so it's a big adjustment," said Perez.
He said the junior Soldiers had an especially steep learning curve during the two weeks they were out in the field.
"Coming out here, we threw a lot at them and expected them to grasp the whole concept," he said.
But Ellis said he was confident that the training would help the Black Falcons quickly get back up to speed.
"We're at the crawl phase right now, but we have a lot of highly motivated Soldiers and highly competent NCOs and officers, so we should be moving at full tilt in no time," he said.