CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Smoke flashes from the tube as an M109A6 "Paladin" howitzer assigned to Battery B, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, fires a high-explosive projectile during an emergency fire mission exercise in Taji, Nov. 17.

CAMP TAJI, Iraq - In the current combat environment, artillery cannons are often used as fixed pieces, conducting fire support missions from inside a stationary fire base.

For units armed with the versatile M109A6 "Paladin" howitzer, the ability to shoot, move, and communicate on the battlefield is a valuable asset.

Soldiers from Battery B, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, traded the confines of their firebase for the streets of Taji, Nov. 17.

The tracks of the Paladins roared down the road as local residents stopped and stared, seeing these mammoth-sized vehicles has become rare due to improvements to security in the area.

"It's good that we only have to exercise an emergency fire mission," said Colquitt, Ga. native, 1st Sgt. Jamie Crankfield. "It's a testament to the hard work of both U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces and the strides we've made in recent years."

"Generally in Iraq, batteries of artillery are limited to the [Forward Operating Base] or re-designated as maneuver elements," added Crankfield. "Conducting [an on-the-move] fire mission in a combat environment maintains the core competencies expected of us as artillerymen."

Amidst the stares and curiosity of the residents of Taji, the cannoneers still had a mission to execute.

"Fire mission!" echoed from the troopers in the Paladins as the onboard computers and radios relayed coordinates to the Soldiers in the gun.

Within a matter of seconds the giant cannons stopped on the road and located their target to provide the deadly and precise fires needed to support combat operations in Multi-National Division-Baghdad.

Smoke and dust filled the air with every flash from the tubes of the cannons. The deafening sound of artillery rang in the distance. Within minutes the Soldiers fired a total of thirty three rounds displaying the quick and awesome force of not only the M109A6, but of the proficient artillerymen on Camp Taji.

"On the battlefield every second matters," said Lt. Col. Eric Schwegler, the commander of the 1st Bn., 82nd FA Regt. "You can bet when Soldiers in MND-B need [artillery support], the Dragons will deliver."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16