2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery

PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan (May 1, 2013) -- Accurate indirect fires require more than just well-trained crews with the knowledge and training to effectively operate the systems.It requires accurate and up-to-date global positioning system coordinates and weather data, as well.

As a military occupational specialty 13-T, field artillery surveyor and metrological crewmember, U.S. Army Spc. Jose Santos of 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, has a mission to provide indirect fire and target locating assets with a common grid and valid weather data.

Common grids permit the massing of indirect fires, delivery of surprise observed fires and transmission of target data from one unit to another to aggressively neutralize or destroy enemy targets. Valid weather data allows for correct charges and adjustments to be made to guns or tubes to put rounds on target.

"Being the only 13T in Afghanistan with 2-15 FA," said Santos, "I've had to take the initiative to ensure all survey missions were accurate and successful."

Due to the various locations of the firing units, Santos has had to adjust his training for the current mission, a decentralized artillery fight. This is something not done often within the field artillery community.

"We rely on one person and one person alone to maintain our meteorological systems and provide survey support throughout the province, and he is our guy," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher Ludwick, 2-15 FA's sensor manager.

Being responsible for two of the five pieces of accurate and predictive fires (GPS coordinates and weather data), the other three being accurate target location, firing unit location, and weapon and ammunition information, Spc. Santos' training helps provide an essential piece of the unit's artillery power, helping to ensure accuracy.

"Accurate firing unit location is one of the five requirements for accurate predictive fires," said Capt. Brian Reynolds, operations officer for 2-15 FA. "Without the skilled work of a survey Soldier, our firing units would not be as precise as this fight demands them to be."

Having accurate artillery allows the ground commander to call for artillery more often which helps to reduce coalition casualties in a fight and significantly reduces the possibility of civilian casualties.

Due to constraints on the deployable size of the Security Forces Assistance Brigade, the battalion could bring only one; the most qualified and highly trained of the 13T's. Having practiced this mission at numerous training events, including two national training center rotations and a division level exercise, Santos was the right choice.

The 13Ts normally use the improved azimuth determining system to make their computations. However, IPADS use is not suited for the mission in Afghanistan. Instead, Santos uses an older method he learned during his initial training.

"Not having the IPADS, I have managed to come up with an effective way for providing command survey control," explained Santos. "I use a surveying transit and a global location position system to turn angles into known azimuths and the global broadcasting system, which pulls weather data from a satellite."

In order to connect the GBS to the satellite, Santos adjusts a dish on the system manually to obtain a lock that is able to provide accurate metrological data for all firing systems.

"The experience brought to the tactical operations center by Santos has proven invaluable during the opening months of our deployment," explained Ludwick. "Without him, our capabilities to provide accurate and predictive fires decreases."