Artillery officers man the big guns
August 23, 2010
FORT HOOD, Texas- For Soldiers in the Army, there is an expectation that their leadership is knowledgeable and as combat ready as they are.
In that spirit of leading from the front, officers from 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, trained on the M109A6 self-propelled 155mm howitzer, also known as a Paladin, and how to safely operate a fire direction control center (FDCC), during several days of training, here, beginning Aug. 16.
"This was for all the officers in the battalion," said Maj. Tom Wilson, a Woodbridge, Va. native and the executive officer for 3rd Bn., 82nd FA.
The course was split between staff and support officers and field artillery officers.
According to Wilson, the training for the staff and support officers was designed to give them an appreciation for what the artillerymen that they support do.
"This helps them understand what they're bringing fuel or ammo for," he said.
The training began with a classroom course on how to operate in a FDCC with an emphasis on safety.
"Safety is paramount," said Cpt. Samuel Allen, from Versailles, Ken., commander of A Battery, 3rd Bn., 82nd FA. "We are going to be lobbing rounds within 600 meters of infantrymen."
Artillerymen have to go over their computations, math and safety checks over and over again to get a round on target on time, Allen explained.
Officers working in a FDCC are responsible for telling the artillerymen on the Paladins where and when to fire, and it is essential they follow precise safety standards.
"We are shooting a projectile that can go more than 30 kilometers," said Wilson. "We support maneuver battalions. When called upon, we have to provide accurate, lethal fire for them."
Following the classroom portion, officers went to the field to work with the Paladins.
For the staff and support officers, this portion was an overview of operations inside one of the big guns, but was slightly more intensive for the FA officers who were actually tested and certified on their knowledge.
"These were basic skills," said Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Williams, from Montgomery, Ala., the master gunner in charge of the training. "This training makes sure they are competent and know exactly what's going on with the guns, and if something goes wrong, they know what to check."
For the FA officers, this was their time to show that they are capable of leading their troopers inside of the Paladins.
"This is about us being able to understand what our [artillery crewmembers] do and understand what that machine does," said Allen.
During the hands-on training, the officers went over performing pre-fire checks, operating the on-board computer, verifying bore sight, setting up aiming points and conducting fire missions, along with various other tasks.
Without FA officers having the knowledge of what these machines and Soldiers that operate them do, they can't properly supervise and certify training, explained Allen.
"As a leader, we have to supervise, and you can't supervise if you're not competent and knowledgeable," he said.
Although this certification ensures the officers know the basics, Allen said this training is not as in-depth as the training the Soldiers and non-commissioned officers who work inside the guns receive.
"This training hits on all the main things," he said. "This ensures that everyone can double check everyone else's work."