By Sgt. Nathaniel FosterJune 27, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. -- From its humble beginnings as small black-powder cannons to the titans of devastation and lethal efficiency of today, field artillery weapons have always made an impact on the battle field. Nowhere is that truth more evident than in the U. S. Army.
214th Fires Brigade field artillerymen showcased their skills during the brigade's field training exercise June 10-14, 2013 at Fort Sill, Okla. During the exercise, artillerymen of 2nd Battalion, 4th Field Artillery and 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery displayed what they bring to the fight.
On June 12, with the call for fire, the Soldiers of 2-4th FA lit up the sky with a monstrous boom which left behind a cloud of smoke, followed by a distant impact seconds later as the rocket reached its target.
The multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) is a high-mobility automatic system based on an M270 weapons platform. MLRS fires surface-to-surface rockets and the Army Tactical Missile System.
The MLRS launcher unit comprises an M270 launcher loaded with 12 rockets, packaged in two six-rocket pods. Mounted on a stretched Bradley chassis, the launcher is a highly automated self-loading and self-aiming system.
Without leaving the cab, the crew of three: a driver, gunner and section chief can fire up to 12 MLRS rockets in fewer than 60 seconds.
"The brigade field problem was outstanding training for the simple fact that we got to work with the brigade to conduct these fire missions during the weeklong exercise," said Staff Sgt. Josh Jehl, a section chief assigned to A/2-4th FA.
Jehl said he joined the Army because he had a family to take care of.
"I figured the Army would be my best choice," he said. "When I joined, I looked at the jobs the Army offered me and chose to become a multiple launch rocket system crew member because of the video of the MLRS shooting rockets down range."
Long ago, Jehl went from a video viewer to an MLRS team member. He now has 13 year's experience and said he still enjoys the job.
"I have had a lot of really good experiences and got to work with many outstanding Soldiers," he said.
Rockets can be fired individually or in ripples of two to 12. Accuracy is maintained in all firing modes, because the computer re-aims the launcher between rounds. The MLRS computerized fire control system enables a reduced crew, or even a single Soldier to load and unload the launcher. A portable boom control device and cable hook assembly is used for loading and unloading. The fire control computer allows firing missions to be carried out either manually or automatically.
Soldiers of 2-4th FA did not just put rockets down range they also conducted chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training in the field, said Spc. Stephen Simmons, B/2-4th FA MLRS crew member.
"I believe the whole brigade did some outstanding training during the field exercise and the outcome was a very successful field problem," he said.
"With over three years in the Army this is the first time I can say I had a lot of fun in the field because the batteries were really focused in the work-rest cycles and that safety was everyone's number one priority," said Simmons.
There is one key element that hardly gets mentioned when it comes to putting rounds down range and that is the support battery within the battalion.
One of those Soldiers in a supporting role was Spc. Andre Muldrow, 696th Forward Support Company motor transport operator.
The 696th FSC provided the batteries with the much needed fuel and rockets to successfully perform their missions.
"We also conducted company-level training during the field exercise," said Muldrow. "I trained on how to transfer the rocket pods from the truck to the ground so the launcher crew can pick them up when needed. I also learned how to transfer fuel from one fuel truck to another fuel truck.
Along with exercising their primary duties, Soldiers trained up on some tasks they rarely perform. Doing so further enhanced mission capabilities.
"Now that I know how to do these tasks I will no longer need someone looking over my shoulder to make sure I am doing them correct," said Muldrow.
The exercise concluded with a time-on-target shoot. The goal was to hit individual targets at the same time with artillery fired from different points and times.
"The brigade time-on-target was successful, because it gave everyone from the brigade commander down to the section chief what right looks like to deliver accurate and timely fires," said Sgt. Maj. Jon Stephens, brigade operations sergeant major. "Conducting a time-on-target is not an opportunity you get at every field training exercise."