Mortar platoon Soldiers more than just a team
May 26, 2011
YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. - As four Soldiers await a radio call to fire their mortars downrange, they stand in the back of a Stryker overlooking the hills of Yakima Training Center. Playing the game, hurry up and wait, the Soldiers are anxious to play with their weapons system. One Soldier begins humming a tune, and soon enough all four are singing a song, trying to keep motivated on a windy, rainy day.
The Soldiers of 3rd Squad, Mortar Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., live and work in the confines of a Stryker vehicle during a brigade field training exercise at YTC, May 18-June 8.
“The past four days we’ve been doing a fire coordination exercise,” said Spc. Clifford Woodward, indirect fire infantryman. “It’s working together to make sure the mortars are on deck with our mortars system and talking to the fire support platoons making sure we are coordinated with them to get the job done.”
Teamwork plays an important role in full-spectrum operations, as well as within the three-man team it takes to run the mortar system.
“The gunner, assistant gunner and the ammo bearer all have to work in sync,” said Pfc. Josh Dirrigle, indirect fire infantryman. “They all have to be able to communicate with each other, feel comfortable around each other and know how each other work. That comes into play during a fire mission, you know what’s going on with everyone.”
“If you don’t have teamwork, then you can’t work together,” said Dirrigle, the Raleigh, N.C., native. “You’d be fighting all the time.”
During the three years the Soldiers of 3 Gun have been together, they have become more than members of a squad; they have become a family.
“I don’t have family here in Washington, so these guys are my family,” said Spc. Andrew Richardson, indirect fire infantryman, a Richland Center, Wis., native. “I’m not around anybody; everyone is back home. They are my brothers.”
Knowing each other like brothers is a benefit for 3 Gun when it comes to performing their jobs.
“When you train with the same guys over and over you start to learn their habits,” said Woodward, an Interlachen, Fla., native. “It’s like a brother thing. You know exactly how they are going to act when something goes wrong, how they are going to react when something goes right. You know exactly when they need a little push to get that extra oomph in their step.”
As for the platoon’s new guy, Spc. Christian Olivarez, a combat medic and native of Victorville, Calif., the team accepted him with open arms into their Stryker and family.
“I’ve been with the mortars for about seven months,” said Olivarez. “As soon as I got attached with them they welcomed me in. As long as I’m taking care of them, they are taking care of me.”
The Soldiers of 3 Gun have become a well-oiled machine in the three years they have been together. They are able to work more effectively as a team by knowing what motivates each one and how each person reacts to different situations. Without teamwork and sense of family, the team members wouldn’t be able to pull together to preform their piece of the fire coordination exercise.
With the wind whipping across the faces of the singing Soldiers, they hear a radio call come in. The singing immediately stops and the members of 3 Gun jump into action, ready to load and fire a mortar round across the barren land of YTC.