Field Artillerymen qualify on new weapon system
October 15, 2009
<B> FORT STEWART, Ga. </B>- The 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team is once again preparing for deployment, but this time around they're going 'light.' First Battalion, 76th Field Artillery Regiment Soldiers proved they're qualified to meet the brigade's new light-fighting initiative through an exercise known as Table VIII Gunnery held at Fort Stewart, Oct. 5-8.
This was the battalion's first section-qualification table with the newly fielded M119 A2 Howitzers, said 1st Sgt. Eran Lyle, Battery B, 1/76 FA. "Before the last deployment, we fired the Paladin."
The Patriots traded in their self-propelled, mechanized M109 Paladins for the light-weight, towed guns during the 4th IBCT's transformation from a heavy brigade to a light-infantry unit in April.
Table VIII Gunnery now showcases the field artillerymen's capabilities in a different light.
"During this qualification, a section must conduct live-fire missions with the new artillery piece to standard, as well as to time," said Sgt. 1st Class Donald Durgin, Battery A, 1/76 FA. "Section chiefs have to make sure that the shell/fuse combinations are correct, the site data is properly read and placed on the panoramic telescopes, (and) forms are properly filled out - a task to do in less than 45 seconds."
The gunnery sergeant explained that firing a M119 Howitzer is no longer just "press of the button." Sections of five to seven Soldiers now each have an essential role in operating the manual weapon, he said.
During the qualification exercise, Soldiers were graded on their ability to conduct a series of firing missions, to include high- and low-angle missions, adjust-fire missions and fire-for-effect.
"Once the sections complete (firing) 13 artillery rounds, they will then be tested during platoon, battery and battalion qualification at a later date," Sgt. 1st Class Durgin said.
Staff Sergeant Juan Lozano, 1/76 FA, added that Table VIII Gunnery works twofold - preparing troops for the upcoming deployment and keeping Soldiers sound on multiple field artillery weapons.
"Not many Soldiers here are familiar with the M119 Howitzer," Staff Sgt. Lozano said, adding that field artillery Soldiers are usually trained on one specific weapon during basic training. "This will help them build muscle memory, help them become more familiar with the new equipment."
Despite the experience with the new weapon system, the Patriot Battalion qualified all of its M119 Howitzers during Table VIII. Sergeant First Class Durgin said he's confident in 1/76 FA's ability to provide accurate fire support while deployed.
"This is what being an artilleryman is all about," he said, "sending steel down range to a designated target to support the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Soldiers."