Fort Sill's range gains new targets
October 11, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- When artillery targets like old jeeps get blown up at Fort Sill's impact areas they need to be replaced. About three times a year, Range Operations coordinates the insertion of targets at the four impact areas. It is a highly choreographed mission involving Range Operations, explosive ordnance disposal Soldiers, the 214th and 75th Fires brigades and support units.
On the morning of Oct. 2, crews placed eight old Humvees in the Thompson Hill Range impact area. Meanwhile Larry Aller, Range Operations range officer, supervised the placement of two M60 tanks in Close Air Support Box 2, also on West Range.
Slowly walking side-by-side about arm-length apart, 11 Soldiers from the 761st Ordnance Company (EOD) scanned the ground for any unexploded ordnance. They strategically placed red flags marking the cleared path. Behind them two M88 recovery vehicle crews each towing a tank followed single file. They would do this slow, gingerly sojourn for about 1,500 meters to the target insertion points.
"This is standard range clearance for us," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Morabito,761st operations NCO. "We're looking for any kind of UXO or ordnance that is still fused that's above the ground or just below it."
The EOD Soldiers are very careful, Aller said.
"They do a phenomenal job and are great to work with," he said.
If there is any place in Comanche County that could resemble a moonscape it would be CAS 2. The land was pockmarked with small craters, and made slippery by recent rains. Because of the craters and potential UXOs, M88 joyrides were not an option.
Driver Spc. Yehoshua Wardlaw, 1st Battalion, 17th Field Artillery, said M88s are tough, but you still have to take it easy navigating the ruts.
"Nice and slow, you don't want to go too fast," Wardlaw said. "You hope and pray that nothing happens."
Aller said that on a recent target insertion an M88 got stuck in a creek bed.
"We were out here until 9 o'clock at night trying to get it out," he said.
The old tanks were procured from Fort Knox, Ky., and had rather peculiar color schemes: one was hot pink, the other a light purple. Those colors were military specifications for targets at Fort Campbell, Ky. In training there, a brigade would fire at its color-designated target, Aller said.
In the impact areas here the retired tanks will begin their second careers as targets where they will get coats of "Fort Sill paint."
"In artillery to 'paint' something means that we have a laser, and are lazing a target to get a grid where it's located," Aller said.
Up until the early 1990s when Fort Sill had aviation units, H-47 Chinook helicopters would insert lighter targets, Aller said.
"But it couldn't insert an M60 tank - it's too heavy," Aller said.
Nearing the insertion point, the Soldiers passed badly scarred and broken targets like 8-inch howitzers, Humvees, "deuce and a half" cargo trucks, and indistinguishable metal pieces that could have been, well, anything.
Aller used a GPS to get the tanks precisely where planned.
"We'll send the location to the (FA) schoolhouse and the fires brigades so they have it," Aller said.
Aller said he gets outstanding support from numerous units and agencies across the installation for the target insertion mission.
"Everybody from the fires brigades to the schoolhouse to the support units have all been very helpful," he said. "We haven't had a unit yet that wouldn't support us."