Families experience field training exercise
December 6, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. (6 Dec. 2012) -- Family members of Soldiers assigned to 3rd Battalion, 13th Field Artillery, part of the 75th Fires Brigade, participated in a Family Field Training Exercise Nov. 16, at Fort Sill's 1,000 Inch Range.
The event was part of the battalion commander's initiative to bring unit members together regardless of the role they play: whether an officer, noncommissioned officer, junior-enlisted Soldier or a family member.
"This type of event provides a network of support amongst the chain of command, Soldiers, their family members and the entire "Red Dragon" family, said Julie Franklin, battalion family readiness support assistant.
The family members' day in the life of a Soldier began at the battalion's headquarters building where they were issued an Army combat helmet and a set of Interceptor body armor.
Afterward, they rode in a convoy of military vehicles en route to the range.
"This is great," said Spc. Howard Montgomery III, the son of Howard Montgomery II, a former private first class in the Army. "He [Montgomery II] gets a chance to come out, see these weapons and shoot them."
At the training site, they were welcomed by Lt. Col. Steve Carpenter, "Red Dragon" battalion commander, followed by a safety briefing from Sgt. 1st Class Scott Carns, noncommissioned officer in charge of the range.
During the briefing, the participants were taught basic safety procedures that are common knowledge to the average Soldier. Afterward, they were split into groups, each assigned an NCO as its leader.
"If you hear someone say 'cease fire,' do not panic," said Carns. It could be called for any reason, he said. Someone's weapon could have a malfunction, and we may have to safely send someone on range to fix it. Just remain calm and follow all instructions from the group leader.
The groups rotated through training lanes which featured the M240B Machine Gun; the .50--caliber Machine Gun; a M249 Machine Gun; the Mk 19, a 40mm Grenade Launcher; and the M16 Rifle weapon systems. Additional stations featured a Fire Direction Center, and an M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System.
As the day progressed, the excitement was tempered as family members increasingly became aware of the physical demands Soldiers must endure when they wear protective gear in a training, or combat, environment.
"My neck muscles are getting worked," said Alicia Lowry, spouse of Sgt. Christopher Baker. "I didn't even know I had those muscles!"
The experience, however, gave her a deeper appreciation for the difficulties that men and women in the nation's armed forces face in combat.
"I can see how difficult it can be to shoot back at someone," said Lowry.
The weapons are heavy and the helmet gets in the way, she said.
The exercise was not exclusive to the participants around the weapons. The family members were also given briefings that explained the capabilities of MLRS, the fire direction center and how the unit systematically operates to accomplish its mission.
"We can shoot all 12 of our rockets in under a minute," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Lyons, a briefer at the MLRS station.
"We have the ability to shoot and move locations before the enemy can detect the trajectory path of our rockets and send out counter fire toward that position," he said.
Additionally, the participants were literally given a taste of the life of a field Soldier when they were served chow in traditional-military fashion (Army green tent and food containers included).
Overall, the family members were given a better understanding of what their loved ones do to protect and defend the nation, its constitution and its interest.
"This is a real eye opener," said Lowry. "It gives me a new perspective of what he [Sgt. Christopher Baker] does."