Operation Tribute to Freedom

Faces From the Front for May 30, 2011 - Pfc. Christopher Mace

Private First Class Christopher Mace

Current Unit: Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment
Current Position: Field Artillery Tactical Data Systems Specialist
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan
Hometown: Purcellville, Va.
Years of Service: 1.5

There are many reasons why people choose a military life. For some it is guaranteed college tuition and a solid career track, for others it is patriotism or a deep admiration of our men and women in uniform and for others still, it is a family connection. Pfc. Christopher Mace was influenced to some degree by all of these factors.

“I decided to join the Army because I was looking for something new,” said Mace. “The Army would also pay for my college, so that was a really big reason as well.”

Both of Mace’s grandfathers and one of his brothers served in the military.

“They helped me in deciding if the Army was right for me or not, but they left the choice to me.”

Shortly after Mace committed to the Army, his brother was killed in action.

“On October 3, 2009 my brother Stephan Mace was killed in action at Command Observation Post Keating, Afghanistan. It was a rough time but I still deployed with my unit in July,” he said.

Before heading to Afghanistan in the summer of 2010, Mace received nine weeks of specialized training at Fort Sill, Okla. to learn the technical ins and outs of advanced field artillery tactical data systems. In his specialized role, he converts the data he receives from forward observers into firing data used to inform artillery operations.

“A forward observer finds the enemy, and gives us data as to where the target is, its size etc.,” explained Mace. “They are located all throughout the battlefield. An observer can either be man or machine.”

Forward observers collect many types of data such as the target size, location, and altitude. They may even recommend the type of ammunition fired.

“We have a special computer system that allows us to get accurate firing data for our howitzers. Firing data tells our howitzers what elevation and what direction to shoot their projectile. We send the howitzers this data and they apply it to their guns for accurate fires,” said Mace.

His work as an advanced field artillery tactical data systems specialist helps not only fellow Soldiers but Mace also believes it helps the Afghan people.

“I provide our guns with firing data to help neutralize the enemy with an accurate first round. This helps neutralize the enemy, and hopefully make that particular area a safer place for both our Soldiers and the Afghan people.”

The hard conditions that many Afghans face each day have made an impression on the Soldier, who hopes that he and his comrades will be able to make life better for the Afghan people.

“You see the Afghans, living in shacks, or homes built out of mud. They don't really have much of a means for food, potable water, or jobs. Hopefully by the work performed by us over here will make it a safer place for the Afghans to live and help them establish a stable economy,” he said.

In addition to believing in his mission, for the most part Mace enjoys his tour of duty.

“I have to say my best deployment experience has been the traveling. Being in the Army, you get to go places and see things that many people in the world will never have a chance to see.”

While there are some challenges such as the long hours and lack of contact with family, Mace has learned a few things during this deployment.

“I have learned that you can never take things for granted, such as cell phones, a nice meal, or even at times heat to keep us warm. It will really make me appreciate things a lot more when I deploy back to the states.”

Mace is scheduled to return to the states the summer of 2011 and will be based out of Fort Campbell. He is already making plans to visit friends and family in Purcellville, Va. and take a long-awaited vacation.

“When I return to the states, I plan on going to Myrtle Beach, S.C. for vacation, then maybe Canada. It's just nice to have a change in scenery from here and be able to have the fun I missed out on for a year in Afghanistan,” he says.

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