Field Artillery BOLC students complete studies with 'war'
July 7, 2011
By Jeff Crawley
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Students in Field Artillery Basic Officer Leaders Course B completed their studies with a culminating exercise June 20-24 at the Brig. Gen. Horace Sanders Training Area and west ranges here.
RedlegWar challenged the newest officers to their limits as they performed roles as fire support and fire direction officers, gun crew members firing 105mm and 155mm howitzers, and learning about mortars. They also did foot patrols in simulated Iraqi villages where they negotiated with leaders and engaged in firefights.
"Redleg War is completly student led," said student 2nd Lt. Brandon Simmons. "During the course, in our live fire-shoots we practiced only one specific technique, but in Redleg War we're putting all of our techniques, different missions and roles together."
The exercise was designed to give the students experience as fire support officers, who are spotting targets on the battlefield, and as fire direction officers, who use the FSO data to get a round on a target, said Capt. Jedebra Henson, 1st Battalion, 30th Field Artillery assistant S3, or operations officer.
On the gun line, students performed every role of the gun crew except gun chief, which requires extensive experience and certification, said Sgt. 1st Class José Chavez,1st-30th FA S-3 noncommissioned officer in charge.
Still, Redleg War was more than just firing artillery rounds. The 115 students of Class No. 3-11 performed 50 proficiency tasks ranging from firing illumination rounds to serving as convoy commanders to performing platoon reconnaissance, Jedebra said.
A unique aspect of the exercise involved mortar instruction, which was provided by Army National Guard Soldiers from Arkansas and Texas.
Although the students did not fire mortar rounds, they learned about the capabilities of the 60mm, 81mm and 120mm mortar weapons systems, said Capt. Ace Hendrix, 2nd Battalion, 153rd Arkansas National Guard mortar instructor. Mortars, which are part of infantry units, are sometimes forgotten in the fires support planning, he said.
Redleg War typically involves support from many units within the 428th FA Brigade, such as the 2nd-2nd FA, which brought in the 800 artillery rounds fired; combat medics and numerous trainers, Jedebra said. Outside units also make the exercise possible including the Marine Artillery Detachment, which provided instructors. Aircraft from Sheppard and Tinker Air Force bases also participate as FSOs guide pilots to targets for simulated strikes.
Marine Staff Sgt. Shawn Dudley, an instructor at the Marine Cannoneer School here, monitored the Soldiers, Marines and allied students at a 155mm howitzer. The BOLC class had about 20 Marines, and Marine Corps firing procedures are a little different from the Army's, he said.
"The Soldiers (in the exercise) adapt to the way we do things; it's an easy transition," Dudley said, referring to Marine firing protocol.
At Forward Operating Base Mow-Way students participated in a combined arms division, or CAD event. A Soldier and a Marine officer engaged in casual conversation with a "sheik." Course instructors listened and evaluated how the officers established a rapport with the leader. Suddenly, a firefight broke out in the village, and students were evaluated on the ensuing engagement.
"I like the CAD event," said student 2nd Lt. Arron Conley, who along with his classmates graduated June 28. "It really simulates what's going on down range and your ability to be a jack-of-all-trades." Conley's next duty station will be Fort Richardson, Alaska.
Capt. Corey Burns, 1st-30th FA CAD instructor, said he wanted the new officers to become critical thinkers.
"You can learn doctrine, but sometimes your tactics, techniques and procedures have to be innovative," he said. "This is what is saving lives -- thinking quickly, acting quickly."
1st Lt. Jessica Park, A Battery, 1st-30th FA executive officer, was in charge of a gun line during the exercise. She said she wanted the students to constantly learn during Redleg War.
"Everything they've learned in the past couple months will come together, click and make sense for them, so that they're set up for success at their next unit," she said.