FORT HOOD, Texas- A slight miscalculation when shooting an artillery round can mean the difference between destroying an enemy target and wiping out a city block.

Fortunately, the military doesn't trust just anyone to call in fire from one of these devastating weapons.

Forward observers from throughout 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, tested their occupational proficiencies during a two-week certification program, here, to insure they are mentally and physically prepared to call in "fire from the sky."

The certification tested participants on the wide-range of skills forward observers are expected to have, to include calling for fire, map reading, land navigation, and setting up antennas.

"This tests their job skills and makes sure these guys are competent in what they do," said Sgt. 1st Class Felix, from South Floral Park, N.Y., a fire support non-commissioned officer for 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment.

"In order to be able to sit on the hill and call for fire, you have to be certified," said Felix.

Forward observers call in projectiles that can do a lot of damage; you don't want someone who doesn't know what they are doing inadvertently causing harm to people, he explained.

Besides earning a certificate, the testing allowed squads of Soldiers the chance to learn about their peers.

"We got to see where everyone was at; their strengths and weaknesses," said Spc. Justin Thompson, a Newark, Ohio native and a forward observer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

This is the first time Thompson had the chance to go through this certification; when he originally arrived at the unit they were only months from deploying.

"It has been a big refresher," he said.

For Soldiers new to the career field, the certification was a chance to learn from a variety of veterans and implement some of their battle-tested skills.

"I've learned quite a bit," said Pvt. Alex Templeman, a Loveland, Colo. native and a forward observer with 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment. "I've got to see the way that different NCOs do things and make them my own."

"This has been a big confidence builder," he said. "I've got to see my leaders in action, and I know they know what they are doing."

Although successfully earning a certificate allows these forward observers to call in real fire power, they will still spend countless hours training both in classrooms and the field to ensure they have what it takes to safely make it "rain" steel.

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