By 1st Lt. Kenneth VilaysoneJuly 1, 2013
SALINA, Kan. - About 42 Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, deployed June 11-20 to Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range along with four howitzers and one fire direction center.
"We were given an opportunity to show what a four-gun platoon could bring to a joint exercise that primarily focused on air assets," said Capt. William Ivins, Battery A commander.
Operation Jaded Thunder was an exercise that focused primarily on Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controllers certifications. This annual live-fire exercise allows JTAC personnel an opportunity to direct the actions of combat aircraft engaged in close air support and other offensive air operations in the ground commander's operational area.
Participating in Operation Jaded Thunder gave 2nd Platoon Soldiers with no deployment experience an opportunity to work in a deployed environment with servicemembers from other branches, according to Sgt. First Class Kenzel Chilton, the platoon's senior noncommissioned officer.
"At the start, it seemed as though the guns might be used in a less-than-effective and kinetic manner, but by the end, the FDC was receiving on-call missions for targets of opportunity," said 1st Lt. Paul Severni, fire direction officer.
During the exercise, 2nd Platoon fired more than 350 rounds and was credited for having effects on target while providing indirect fire support and helping the JTACs incorporate surface fires into their support plan.
"Until Jaded Thunder, the last time any unit fired artillery at Smokey Hill was during the Korean War, making Alpha Battery the first artillery unit to fire in Salina in more than 50 years," said Col. Jeffry Jordan 184th Wing Commander, Kansas Air National Guard.
By the second week, Battery A received all forms of calls for fire from the JTAC observers, including non-standard or "non-doctrinal" calls for fire. In addition to processing the fire missions, the platoon's fire direction center took the opportunity to instruct untrained observers on the proper procedure transmitting a call for fire.
The gap in time added historical significance to the city of Salina and Smoky Hill, as well as to the history of Alpha Battery and the battalion's faithful dedication to service, Jordan said.
"Opportunities like Jaded Thunder are rare and add to the special mystique and experience of being an artilleryman and platoon leader," Severni said.