By Story and photos by Spc. Andrew Ingram, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry DivisionApril 9, 2013
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait. -- Pulling hard on the lanyard gripped tightly in his hands, a cannon crewmember sent a 155mm M107 high explosive artillery round thundering from an M109A6 Paladin Self Propelled Howitzer, arcing over the Kuwaiti desert.
Spc. Christopher Pearsall, Company B, 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division joined his fellow "Straight Arrow" Battalion cannon crew members in verifying their artillery skills during Table VI certifications at Udairi Range, April 1-4, 2013.
"Table VI certifications test our individual teams," said Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph James, senior enlisted leader, 4th Bn., 42nd FA Reg. "These Soldiers are continually training, and this certification is an important step toward improving as a collective unit."
Each morning of the four-day certification cycle, a different platoon traveled from Camp Buehring to the artillery lanes at Udairi Range to undergo the certification gauntlet.
Throughout the day cannon crews conducted multiple fire missions under the direction of their platoon leaders and platoon sergeants.
"Table VI is about half way through the training and certification process for artillery," James said. "In addition to testing the individual crew's abilities, we also test the young lieutenants and platoon sergeants on their abilities to direct their Soldiers during missions."
Before firing, crews quickly loaded their Paladins with ordnance, as senior noncommissioned officers watched them closely, taking note of their speed, adherence to proper procedures and safety standards.
"This whole exercise is about more than certifying our basic skills," said Staff Sgt. Jason Paturno, cannon crewmember, Company B, 4th Bn., 42nd FA Reg. "We are doing this in Kuwait, where our mission is to partner with the local forces.
"They can see the way we train and learn from it," said Paturno. "I'm sure we will have the chance to see how they train and learn from them as well down the line."
After loading up, the crews moved to the firing lane and proceeded to conduct multiple fire missions on targets miles away.
"Every time we get out to the range, we learn something different," said Sgt. Zahn Mather, cannon crewmember, Company B. "We are always getting better at our job, always getting faster. If we improve our time and don't repeat any of the mistakes we've made in the past, it's a good day."
The cannon crews completed the training after conducting direct fire missions, a tactic used to destroy enemies posing a direct threat to themselves or their rear element.
"I like to be graded under pressure," Mather said. "We are at our best when we are working against the clock and the stakes are high."
While most crews certified their skills during gunneries at Fort Carson, the difference in terrain at Udairi Range made the qualifying process challenging.
By training in Kuwait many less experienced Soldiers gain knowledge they could not have obtained in the field at Fort Carson, said Spc. Alexander Bush, cannon crewmember, Company B.
"The terrain is similar to much of Iraq and Afghanistan," Bush said. "After training here, if I am required to perform combat operations in the desert, I will be ready."
The Straight Arrows are slated to continue training and partnering with their Kuwaiti counterparts throughout their deployment.