'Long Knife' soldiers bring the heat at Destiny Range
March 19, 2013
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq - Armed with mortars and self-propelled field artillery systems, soldiers assigned to 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, conducted a combined arms live fire exercise to demonstrate the unit's ability to provide accurate and timely fires, March 17.
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, and Battery A, 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, both of 4th AAB, 1st Cav. Div., showcased their indirect fire proficiency at Destiny Range on Contingency Operating Site Marez during the CALFEX.
"We're out here to demonstrate the skills we've been practicing the last couple of weeks by putting live rounds downrange," said 1st Lt. David Kim, mortar platoon leader assigned to HHC, 2nd Bn., 7th Cav. Regt.
Deployed in support of Operation New Dawn, soldiers assigned to Mortar platoon, 2nd Bn., 7th Cav. Regt. do not usually get the opportunity to fire the U.S. Army M1064 Self-propelled 120 mm Heavy Mortar Carriers during their advise, train and assist mission in northern Iraq, he said.
While there is no need to use the systems to conduct combat missions in northern Iraq, the mortarmen regularly conduct training with 2nd Iraqi Army Division soldiers to increase their Iraqi partners' proficiency in operating their 60 mm, 81 mm and 120 mm mortar systems, Kim explained.
"We don't get to do many live fires throughout the deployment, so we just wanted to sustain our skills and at the same time show the Iraqi soldiers the correct way to execute and engage targets using the mortar system," said Kim.
"We're training the Iraqis on mortar systems and battle drills to build up their security forces," said Kim, a native of Marysville, Calif.
When Kim and fellow mortarmen stationed at Joint Security Station India are not training the 2nd Iraqi Army Division soldiers on different mortar systems, the U.S. Army soldiers provide mounted patrol assistance to units that travel to and from the remote installation.
"We support the brigade in any way we can, and we love that we get the opportunity to come out here and fire rounds and do our job," said Sgt. Andrew Harris, a native of Germantown, Md., and mortar section sergeant assigned to HHC, 2nd Bn., 7th Cav. Regt.
Throughout the live fire exercise, the 4th AAB soldiers engaged multiple simulated targets on Destiny Range with the indirect fire weapons systems.
The mortarmen used the speed of their M1064 armored mortar carrier systems to quickly engage a target, and the 4th AAB's field artillery battalion employed its powerful self-propelled howitzers to continue the engagement.
The "Red Legs" of 5th Bn., 82nd FA Regt. fired M109A6 Paladins, launching 155 mm high-explosive rounds from a firing point located several miles from where the M1064 armored mortar carriers engaged the target area.
Prior to the training exercise, the field artillery troopers completed the pre-requisite fire direction and gunnery re-certifications to verify the crews' proficiency at putting rounds on target.
"We're out here demonstrating the counter indirect-fire techniques we use to suppress the enemy," said Sgt. 1st Class Nikon Escobedo, platoon sergeant assigned to Battery A, 5th Bn., 82nd FA Regt.
Both battalions spent weeks training and preparing for the combined arms live fire exercise, the second such exercise since the 4th AAB assumed its mission in Mosul in October 2010.
"These weapons we use can cause a lot of collateral damage if not used properly so it's important we train regularly on these systems," said Escobedo, a native of Cisco, Texas. "We love to fire our weapons, but we want to make sure we do things safe and the right way."