Local community leaders observe field artillery demonstrations
November 20, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - A flurry of activity surrounded the M777A2 howitzer as soldiers worked to raise the muzzle before opening the breech to load a high-explosive round. All eyes shifted to the soldier holding the lanyard.
Guests from Joint Base Lewis McChord's surrounding communities put in their earplugs, and watched in anticipation.
Over loudspeakers, the audience heard radio chatter between fire direction control and forward observers; then the relayed information to the cannon crews. Soldiers braced for the pressure wave, and on the order, "Fire!" sent a round downrange. The thunderous boom came with clouds of smoke that engulfed the firing line.
Battery A, 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, conducted a field training exercise that began Nov. 13 and finished with a community live-fire demonstration, Nov. 15.
Spectators arrived to the training site and met with some of the battalion leadership for an orientation. They then gathered at an observation tent hundreds of yards from where four of Battery A's M777A2 howitzers were emplaced with their crews, waiting to fire.
"We've invited some of the leaders in our partner community of Tumwater, Wash., here to get a look at some of our capabilities and to maintain that good will," said Maj. Will Freds, battalion executive officer.
The Tumwater city council, Tumwater Rotary Club and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7089 were among the guests invited to the event.
"We're always looking for ways to interact with the military community," said Betsy Spath, Tumwater, Wash., city council member. "We received an invitation to come out here today, and it was an awesome demonstration of what the soldiers do and go through to protect our freedoms."
A narrated demonstration helped the audience understand some of the specific actions the cannon crewmembers were performing, leading up to a finale where all four guns let loose together to fire a series of high-explosive rounds.
Several of the soldiers involved with the demonstration were recent advanced individual training graduates, and working with these guns in a field training exercise for the first time.
"They're finally getting to experience them, their real impact and it gives them a real appreciation for what they are and what they can do," Freds said.
The soldiers on the firing line invited the visitors to get an up-close look at the equipment, weapons and rounds used during the live-fire.
"Our soldiers enjoyed talking to our guests, they see themselves through new eyes when they're sharing what they do with people excited to experience it for the first time," Freds said.
Soldiers from Battery A went into more detail about the weapons systems, the types of rounds fired by the M777A2s and discussed training with their visitors.
"I really appreciated talking to the soldiers, learning what they went through to learn how to use the weapon systems," Spath said. "To hear their different backgrounds, deployment experiences and watch how these finely-tuned crews work to hit a target 20 miles away is very impressive."