Mortar men train in Afghan-like environment
April 21, 2010
CAMP GUERNSEY, Wyo. - Soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment seized an opportunity for extra training to practice their newly qualified mortar skills on the parade field at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., April 11.
After testing to prove their proficiency with the 120mm mortar system, a mortar crew from Troop A, 3-89 Cav. decided to remain behind and keep honing their skills. Staff Sgt. Leon Jones, Apache Troop fire direction noncommissioned officer in charge, said his crew conducted the battle drills to become even more accurate with their fires.
"Scouts, 19Ds, go out and do their training, now this is our time for us to conduct our training ... so we just took advantage of the time," said Jones. "We conducted a mortars gunners' exam with the other mortars (sections) in the squadron. We decided to stay out here a little longer to go over a little more training, so right now I have the guys on the 120mm mortar system."
The crew practiced bore sighting the mortar system on the parade field. Bore sighting ensures accuracy with the weapon, especially before a crew conducts a live-fire mission, said Jones.
The 120mm mortar system has two sights - the bore sight and an M67 sight. When bore sighting the weapon a mortar crewman finds an aiming stake at a distance of about 200 meters and focuses the sight's crosshairs on the right side of the stake, explained Jones. Then the mortar man aims the M-67 sight on the left side of the stake, he said.
Mortar crews receive fire missions from the Forward Observers (FOs) then input that data into an M-32 Lightweight Handheld Mortar Ballistic Computer (LHMBC) before sending the target information to the gun line, explained Jones. Hitting a target with 120mm mortars depends on the data FOs provide to mortar crews, he said. The entire process, including processing the information through a Fire Direction Center (FDC), should take less than two minutes.
Pfc. Alejondro Sears has been assigned to 3-89 Cav. for 6 or 7 months. He said since he joined the squadron, his unit has conducted some pretty hard training and gone to the field a lot, getting training on the mortar system. Training at Camp Guernsey has been no exception.
"We got to do some hip shoot training in the mountains, which (involved) the whole system - mounting it and setting it up in under two minutes and it was really, really, really hard (due to the altitude)," said Sears. "So it is a good training experience, especially since we are about to deploy to Afghanistan."
The last week of training in Wyoming is the culminating event - a force-on-force exercise. Sears, who said mortar men must perform all the tasks infantrymen do plus know their primary skills firing mortars, is ready to support his scout brethren.
"During force on force, we will be rolling around with our scouts. We will most likely set up in a defilade (fortified-protection) position, which is behind a mountain or something," said Sears. "We will wait for them to call up some grids for us so we can do some dry fires; and if they need us for anything else, they will call us."
Jones said Camp Guernsey represents a prime opportunity for mortar crews to conduct "good, hardcore training." Camp Guernsey really replicates the mountainous terrain in Afghanistan, he said.
"Being a light mortar guy, which would be 60(mm mortar) sections, you are going to do a lot of walking," said Jones. "The altitude is going to be pretty high. Overall, it is a good environment for the mortars ... the primary source of weaponry over there in Afghanistan. They are really going to rely on us a lot.
"The job that we do is very important. We have to make sure we are shooting accurate (fires) and we are getting rounds downrange fast in order to destroy the enemy," continued Jones. "And that is what it is all about. We are focusing on our job; we are getting our job done; and we are out here training and getting ready for combat."