By U.S. ArmyJuly 1, 2013
Twenty one years ago a platoon sergeant choose a single Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadet from his platoon to fire a Vulcan air defense weapon system. Although the weapon system was on the verge of retirement from the Army, that old Vulcan had a lasting impact on the cadet.
Jared Galazin, the cadet, would go on to choose air defense artillery as one of his top three branches because of the time he spent on the gun. Now he is a lieutenant colonel and commander of the 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
"It was pretty amazing to get behind that weapon system and know that you are about to fire a 20mm cannon," said Galazin. "I remember firing that thing and the whole chassis just shook violently. Keeping that thing tracking smooth on an aircraft I'm sure had to be very difficult for those who were gunners."
About a year later, Galazin had orders sending him to the 2-44th ADA, which was still using the Vulcan at the time, so he received more formal instruction on the gun shortly before the Army retired it from service.
Twenty years later, he along with a number of former service members with fond memories of their time as Vulcan crew members are ready to commemorate the weapon. They plan to gather at a battalion organizational day on July 3, at Building 6746 on Fort Campbell. In addition to celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Vulcan's retirement, the battalion will provide lunch and sporting events for the attendees. Galazin said that the battalion has a large number of former 2-44th ADA Soldiers that are still part of the team and he invited them to come celebrate with the battalion.
He had more memories of the Vulcan to share.
"It's was a phenomenal weapon in terms of the firepower that it could provide," said Galazin. "At the time the division was equipped with Vulcans it provided a great direct fire weapon to help support the infantry."
He recounted a story one of his Vulcan gunners told him about an encounter with Iraqi infantry during Desert Storm. The Iraqis were in an entrenched position engaging a M2 Bradley fighting vehicle. The Bradley's weapons were unable to damage the Iraqis hiding behind a wall of dirt. However, the Bradley's crew called for a Vulcan and once the air defense Soldiers took aim at the berm, the Vulcan neutralized the threat in a matter of seconds.
"Back in the time when it did serve, it was very important," said Galazin. "It was part of the overall mix of weapon systems that the Air Defense Artillery had."
The M167 Vulcan the battalion used was a highly mobile weapon. A Humvee could tow it and a Blackhawk helicopter could air assault it anywhere it needed to go. It provided defense against aircraft that were too close for missiles. However, despite its many positive attributes the Vulcan did have a flaw.
"One of the worst features and what led to its retirement is that it simply couldn't provide a lot of capability against high performance jets," said Galazin.
In some ways though, the venerable Vulcan is making a comeback. Soldiers from Bravo Battery 2-44th ADA just recently finished training on the Counter Rocket Artillery and Mortar weapon system as part of their preparations to deploy to Afghanistan and it shares many similarities with the Vulcan.
"Actually, we talk about C-RAM almost being the son of Vulcan," said Galazin. "Essentially it's the same gun."
However, the radar and tracking systems have received a significant upgrade.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Waller, an intercept section sergeant for the unit, said the C-RAM is accurate and has the ability to engage multiple targets. He and the rest of Bravo Battery 2-44 ADA will soon have an opportunity to protect Soldiers from indirect fire using the C-RAM.
"It's a pretty remarkable weapon," said Waller. He summed it up by saying that operating the C-RAM was "beastly."
For those interested in more information about the battalion's Vulcan commemoration please contact Maj. Eric Weyenberg at 931-216-0998 or via email at email@example.com.