Long Knife mortar men hang rounds to improve crew proficiency
May 14, 2012
FORT HOOD, Texas--"The mortar systems' purpose is to deliver direct, accurate, lethal fire indirectly on enemy forces so our flanking units can get through," said Sgt. First Class Joe Garcia, a mortar platoon sergeant.
Soldiers assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Division, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, honed their skills on the 120 mm mortar system in a dismounted configuration during a live fire exercise May 9.
Soldiers conducted the exercise to help prepare them for a mortar system evaluation later this summer and to build proficiency on the system they will work with in a combat environment.
With the unit's last mission to Iraq completed over nine months ago coupled with the departure of combat troops from Iraq at the end of 2011, Long Knife Soldiers are focusing their training on the possibility of having to deploy to Afghanistan.
"Today, we dismounted our gun systems to prepare for Afghanistan's terrain since we would be dismounted there," said Garcia, who is assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Bn., 12th Cav. Reg.
After receiving deflection and elevation data from the fire direction center, the mortar crews adjusted their mortar tubes and, when directed, fired rounds on the designated target location. Forward observers, watching from on top of a nearby hill, confirmed whether or not the impacts produced the desired effects on the target and relayed any needed adjustments to the fire direction center.
"This training is important because it allows these Soldiers to hone their mortar skills for real life action if deployed," said Garcia, a native of San Antonio. "It will get them faster on the gun system and allow them to better understand the system…it will give them the confidence to fire down range without second guessing themselves."
After each set of rounds fired, Soldiers raced against time to adjust the mortar tube's deflection and elevation for the next fire mission.
The fire direction center gave Soldiers simulated missions where mortar men had to remove the allotted amount of charges to range a target located 2,700 meters away.
"Each charge adds more range and distance," said Pvt. Austin Silvers, a mortar man assigned Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Bn., 12th Cav. Reg. "Charge one will be the closest and charge four is the farthest away. With a charge four, you can fire up to 7,200 meters away," stated Silvers, a native of Spring, Texas.
"Thunderhorse" Soldiers of the 2nd Bn., 12th Cav. Reg., fired 140 training and live rounds. The group of Soldiers learned from their mistakes and perfected their techniques and procedures.
"The more proficient you are, the more timely and accurate you will be if you have to drop rounds down on the enemy," said Spc. Alexander Ward, a mortar man assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Bn., 12th Cav. Reg. "In a matter of two weeks, all of us achieved a score of expert on our mortar system exam," added Ward, a native of Sidney, Ohio.
Round after round flew through the sky, cracked the air and landed a few kilometers away where notional enemy forces were located.
The Soldiers not only gained proficiency during the training event, but they also gained the knowledge needed to successfully operate in a deployed environment if and when called upon to do so.