75th Fires Brigade leads combined arms exercise
November 29, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. (29 Nov. 2012) -- "I hear you calling, calling for me. King of the battle, field artillery … ."
Virtually all Soldiers who serve in the Army have heard that cadence. Many Soldiers, new and old, have and openly debated their different perspectives concerning which element of battle, infantry or artillery, is truly the king of the battlefield -- in comparison to the king and queen pieces on a chess board.
Although both present a strong case for being crowned king or queen, one thing is for certain -- neither can function properly without the other.
The 75th Fires Brigade tested this theory as it underwent a brigade-level field training exercise Oct. 29 through Nov. 8, here.
The "Tough As Diamonds" brigade conducted the 11-day exercise to hone its staff's ability to operate as a combined-arms headquarters with newly integrated ground and air combat maneuver units. Major supporting elements involved were 1st Battalion, 17th Field Artillery, 3rd Battalion, 13th FA; and 100th Brigade Support Battalion, all stationed here with the 75th FiB.
To help facilitate a more realistic training event involving multiple units, the 75th collaborated with 2-2nd Infantry and 1-6th FA, 3rd Brigade, both from Fort Knox, Ky.
After an exhausting 16-hour bus ride, the Fort Knox units arrived here and received logistics support from the 75th FiB. The brigade coordinated basic necessities ranging from living quarters and meals to ammunition and mine resistant and ambush protective vehicles.
As each unit received its equipment, Soldiers conducted pre-execution checks to verify that safety hazards were mitigated.
"For our equipment [the M119A1 howitzer], we conduct a fire control alignment test," said Sgt. Edward Green, 1-6th FA section chief. "It measures the data for the howitzer and ensures it is true to verify safe and accurate firing is conducted when we send rounds down range."
Although the unit was not firing with its normal equipment, its artillerymen remained confident in their ability to effectively engage the enemy.
"This battalion is pretty accurate," said Green. "We could shoot a dime out of the sky."
The units used one of their most expendable resources, extra time, to plan for various scenarios that could challenge them during the exercise.
"We are anticipating a division-plus sized element," said Staff Sgt. Chris Chambers, a platoon sergeant with Company A, 2-2nd Infantry.
If all goes according to plans, the 75th FiB will reduce those forces with artillery rounds so the 2-2nd Infantry to engage light infantry, he said.
Then the fun began. The 75th FiB's headquarters was at Training Area 59; its plan was simple. The headquarters element and its subordinate units would conduct one day of dry-fire rehearsals followed by a day of dry- and live-fire training events.
Excitement loomed throughout the camp as the troops prepared for the ensuing live-fire events. Although 2-2nd Infantry returned from combat operations less than a year ago, many of its Soldiers were new to the Army, or the unit, and had never experienced a combined-arms exercise or real world event.
"Approximately 40 percent of our Soldiers have never been in combat," said Chambers. "This is different training than what Soldiers normally go through." They normally assault the enemy or objective without it being hit by artillery, he said.
"This training gets our guys accustomed to artillery rounds coming in," said Chambers. "Now, they're getting the chance to feel the impact of the rounds that land as well as assault the enemy while traversing terrain that has been modified by artillery rounds."
As darkness fell, the royal family of battle did not waiver in their efforts to defeat its approaching enemy. The units remained vigilant while looking and listening for any signs of any hostile advance.
"Boom, boom, boom" echoed throughout the cold night as artillery shells from 1-6th FA, 3-13th FA and 1-17th FA rained havoc on enemy positions.
The remaining notional enemies who were fortunate enough to survive the well-orchestrated barrage were engaged, as anticipated, by 2-2nd Infantry. As the enemy advanced toward 2-2nd's fighting position, the infantrymen continually redistributed small-arms ammunition and mortar rounds amongst its personnel.
"Enemy within 200 meters!" was yelled across the gun line. "Go black, go black …" The unit, then, nearly depleted its arsenal, i.e., go black, in a successful attempt at eliminating the advancing enemy.
After the dust settled, the operation shifted from a defensive posture to offensive operations. The 75th FiB, with its higher headquarters 1st Infantry Division, sent orders to its subordinate units to suppress and destroy the remaining enemy.
Throughout the operation, headquarters personnel worked diligently to ensure plans and missions were thoroughly understood by all participating parties. Rehearsal of conduct drills became increasingly important as the training event incorporated additional elements, such as gunships.
This new addition further challenged the Air Defense and Airspace Management Cell as it had to ensure units on the ground were fully aware of where air support elements were before firing munitions toward a target.
Once offensive operations commenced, the enemy's positions were littered with artillery rounds. The infantrymen simultaneously moved into their respective positions and assaulted the enemy.
As the infantrymen closed in on the objective, they called in close air support from attack helicopters to help eliminate enemy ground units. After a successful firefight, the 75th FiB and its units eventually overwhelmed the enemy.
1-6th FA and 2-2nd Infantry wrapped up their missions, major combat operations came to an end, and the 75th FiB transitioned to stability operations.
The 2-2nd Infantry then regrouped and conducted an informal after action review. They were reminded of the impact of the support they have at their disposal while engaging the enemy in combat.
"Take a look at this piece of shrapnel," said Capt. Ronald Vinyard, A/2-2nd Infantry commander. "I want you guys to see the effect of what happens when you call in artillery and air support. I want you to have confidence in our military's capabilities."
Although major enemy threats were neutralized, the new task was to locate and disband residual disruptive activities.
A special group of Soldiers was tasked to destroy various targets of military interest to maintain peace and the safety of the citizens of the area.
As the exercise culminated, 75th FiB Soldiers reflected on the training they received. They returned to the garrison environment with a greater understanding of their role within the brigade and of its capabilities to perform as a higher-headquarters element.