FORT STEWART, Ga. - Forward observers with 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, certified their skills during a field exercise May 6, on Fort Stewart.

The certification, scheduled for two weeks, tests the soldiers on all the skills that make them effective forward observers.

"It's a certification process," said Sgt. Robert Fisher, a combat observation and lasing team, or COLT, chief with 1-76 FA. "This is for getting all the forward observers in the brigade certified and evaluated in their jobs."

Forward observers call in artillery, mortar and close air support by giving an accurate description and location of a target.

Fisher, a native of Punta Gorda, Florida, evaluated fellow forward observers on the operations of the lightweight laser designator/rangefinder, or LLDR.

"It gives the forward observer an accurate tool to be able to give an accurate location of the enemy position in order to precisely guide on laser-guided munitions from aircraft on to that position," Fisher said.

Other skills the Patriot soldiers were tested on included setting up and operating multiple communications systems, as a two man observer-radio operator team. The radio and GPS-based systems are designed to simplify their jobs through technology.

However, they were still required to perform the most basic and critical tasks of using a compass, map and protractor to locate areas where fire support was notionally needed. After mapping their location and routes, the teams located and occupied an observation post, and called in a fire mission.

Every skill the soldiers are tested on is vital to their performance in combat, having the potential to safeguard soldiers, equipment and vehicle convoys without needing ground soldiers to engage enemies.

Pfc. Tucker Murphy, a forward observer with 1-76 FA's COLT, was confident in all of his skills, but said he had to practice some of them more than others to prepare.

"The most difficult task for me would probably be [observation post] location," said the Hambleton, West Virginia native. "It's not something I've practiced very much, being in a COLT setting where we bring the [M1200 Armored] Knight vehicles up and observe."

"It's our job," said Murphy. "Every part of this [certification] is something that we do in combat."