• CAMP BLANDING, Fla-- New York Army National Guard Soldiers from Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery Regiment's Gun Three team fire a high-explosive round from their M119A2 howitzer during the unit's gun crew qualification March 12 on Camp Blanding, Florida.

    NewYork Artillerymen Send Rounds Downrange at Blanding

    CAMP BLANDING, Fla-- New York Army National Guard Soldiers from Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery Regiment's Gun Three team fire a high-explosive round from their M119A2 howitzer during the unit's gun crew qualification March 12 on...

  • CAMP BLANDING, Fla--(From left) Sgt. Sandro Lucas, gun chief; Pfc. Ralph Jansen, Number Two; and Spc. Christopher Velasquez, assistant gunner stand clear as Sgt. Erwin Dominguez, gunner, fires a round from an M119A2 howitzer on Camp Blanding, Fla., March 12. The Soldiers are members of the New York Army National Guard's A Battery, 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery Regiment from New Windsor, N.Y.

    New York Artillerymen Send Rounds Downrage at Blanding

    CAMP BLANDING, Fla--(From left) Sgt. Sandro Lucas, gun chief; Pfc. Ralph Jansen, Number Two; and Spc. Christopher Velasquez, assistant gunner stand clear as Sgt. Erwin Dominguez, gunner, fires a round from an M119A2 howitzer on Camp Blanding, Fla...

  • CAMP BLANDING, Fla--Sgt. Frantz Sylvain (left), the Gun Eight team gunner for Battery B, 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery Regiment, races to help his crew set up their M119A2 howitzer at a firing point on Camp Blanding, Florida March 10. During an emplacement drill, gun crews have eight minutes to get their howitzers into firing position.

    New York Artillerymen Send Rounds Downrange at Blanding

    CAMP BLANDING, Fla--Sgt. Frantz Sylvain (left), the Gun Eight team gunner for Battery B, 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery Regiment, races to help his crew set up their M119A2 howitzer at a firing point on Camp Blanding, Florida March 10. During an...

  • CAMP BLANDING, Fla--Spc. Gregory Gati (left), a gunner with the New York Army National Guard's Battery B, 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery Regiment, begins to dial in coordinates on his crew's M119A2 howitzer March 10 as (from left to right) assistant gunner Spc. Marvin Middleton, section chief Sgt. William Torres, and number two man Spc. Morris Richardson look on. The 1st of the 258th was at Camp Blanding, Florida, conducting annual training exercises

    New York Artillerymen Send Rounds Downrange at Blanding

    CAMP BLANDING, Fla--Spc. Gregory Gati (left), a gunner with the New York Army National Guard's Battery B, 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery Regiment, begins to dial in coordinates on his crew's M119A2 howitzer March 10 as (from left to right)...

CAMP BLANDING, Fla--Rain pelting down on them didn't dampen the spirits of the New York Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Battalion 258th Field Artillery, as they qualified on the M119A2 howitzer here on Friday, March 12.

Despite rain and the low visibility the artillerymen of the battalion's Battery A sent their 105-millimeter rounds four kilometers downrange as they fired this new weapons systems for the first time.

The Soldiers, based in the New York City neighborhood of Jamaica, Queens, and New Windsor, NY, traveled to Camp Blanding on March 5 to conduct two weeks of annual training exercises.

The key element was qualifying all their artillery gun crews on the M119A2, a newer weapon that replaces the battalion's old M102 howitzers.

While the battalion also includes medics, mechanics, communications specialists, and a host of other military occupational specialties, gun crew qualification constitutes the primary mission for the unit's annual training.

"It's the main purpose of being out here in the field," said Sgt. Joe Dedrick, a Poughkeepsie native who serves as an A Battery gunner. "Everything we do all year is building up to us being able to fire rounds."

Dedrick said the weather conditions in Florida -- chilly mornings leading into hot, sunny afternoons -- made for an ideal training environment for the 258th's Soldiers.

"The temperature change is a lot closer to overseas than at Fort Drum (N.Y.) or Fort Dix (N.J.)," he said.

Many of the battalion's Soldiers were firing the M119A2 for the first time, and a team of artillery trainers from Fort Sill, Okla., were on site to guide the troops through each phase of gunnery preparation. Dedrick said they demanded precision from each gun team member.

"Each guy has a precise job to do," he said. "And they (the trainers) are asking us for the exact commands. You have to be precise." Each crew fired six rounds, one for each fire mission they were assigned.

A fire mission begins when a forward observer, usually miles away from the firing battery, identifies a target and contacts the battery's fire direction center. Using precise coordinates, the observer describes the type of target and where it is located.

Soldiers in battery fire direction centers determine what kind of round to use on each target, and where each gun needs to point in order to hit it. This information is relayed to the crews on the gun line, who then move as quickly and precisely as possible -- always being careful to follow safety procedures -- to prepare the ammunition, load and aim their howitzers, and finally fire.

A direct hit on a target -- usually an enemy vehicle -- is noted by the forward observer team and relayed over the radio as "steel on steel."

"When you hear that "steel on steel" come over the radio, and you know that you've done your job, there's just no better feeling in the world," said Dedrick.

"Overall, I'm pleased and impressed with the level of skill that the Soldiers acquired and maintained," said Capt. Joseph Linhart, Battery A commander. "We hope that this will give us a good baseline for us to develop our training plans for the future."

With Battery A's gunnery complete, the battalion planned to conduct gun crew qualifications for Battery B on March 17. Meanwhile, the battalion's Soldiers will spend their time training on other necessary Soldier tasks. They will travel back to New York March 20.

Page last updated Mon March 15th, 2010 at 12:36