By Spc. Chelsea Baker, South Carolina National GuardNovember 20, 2017
EASTOVER, S.C. - Colombian army leaders joined the South Carolina Army National Guard during a recent live-fire exercise with the 1-178th Field Artillery Battalion at the McCrady Training Center in Eastover, South Carolina, Nov. 18.
The exchange was part of the South Carolina National Guard's State Partnership Program with the Republic of Colombia. This was the first time the Colombians observed a live-fire exercise with the organization's M109A6 Paladin 155mm howitzer, as part of the Colombian Army's goal to enhance their field artillery structure and learn more about a U.S. Army field artillery battery.
"This is the culmination of a series of visits where the South Carolina National Guard was able to help the Colombian army understand how the U.S. Army utilizes artillery on the battlefield," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. David King, State Partnership Program director.
The Colombian army had previously sent some of their soldiers to Fort Sill, Oklahoma to tour the Fires Center of Excellence. The South Carolina Army National Guard additionally has provided Soldiers to assess the Colombian army field artillery program.
The group of Colombian leaders, which included Colombian Army Brig. Gen. Cesar Augusto Parra, were welcomed by U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, the adjutant general for South Carolina, South Carolina State Command Sgt. Maj., Command. Sgt. Maj. Russ Vickery and other members of the command group. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Gibson, the battalion commander for the 1-178th Field Artillery Battalion, provided an overview of the exercise before firing commenced with the Paladins.
"We were looking forward to the Colombians' visit and were really pleased that they could come and see our training," said Gibson. "This not only allows us an opportunity to assist and answer their questions, it also gives us a different perspective of their field artillery organization."
During the training, the Soldiers of the 1-178th Field Artillery fired 64 high-explosive projectiles on the Fort Jackson range. These projectiles can reach up to 12 kilometers.
"This live-fire exercise was a very valuable part of our visit," said Parra. "The Colombian military is going through a transformation and wants to become more interoperable with U.S. forces. It was a great opportunity for the members of the Colombian delegation to see this training, as one day these company commanders will be commanding battalions."
The Colombian field artillery capability was initiated around the 1900's. Their firing techniques are very similar to the U.S. military, but they are seeking to learn ways to improve their procedures since they do not have the M109A6 Paladin model.
"The goal is to help Colombia enhance their field artillery capabilities as they look to the future," King added.
South Carolina has been partnered with the Republic of Colombia through the National Guard's State Partnership Program since 2012. There are more than 70 state partnerships throughout the National Guard who are paired with various countries around the world.