By Capt. Charlie Dietz, 214th Fires Brigade public affairs officerJune 19, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. (June 19, 2014) -- The "Steel Warriors" of the 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery, took to the fields June 5-13 to complete their Table VI artillery training here.
Table VI includes multi-echelon training that certifies Soldiers at the section level. It is graded by the accuracy of their rockets fired. The battalion not only focused on firing, but other tactical scenarios, to include medical and maintenance operations.
This was the first time battalion members shot their High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, referred to as HIMARS, since returning from deployment in the United Arab Emirates where they fired alongside coalition partners.
A HIMARS is a wheeled system providing ground forces with highly lethal, responsive and precise long-range rocket and missile fires that defeat point and area targets. It is rapidly deployable via C-130 aircraft and operable in all weather conditions. Because of the volume of accurate rocket fire the system can throw at an enemy, the system is nicknamed "steel rain" by Soldiers.
"The fire mission starts with an observer locating a target of opportunity, which can be anything they see that the commander has identified as being as a high value target," said 1st Lt. Christopher Rossi, battalion signal officer.
For exercise purposes, Rossi said those searched for targets included counter-battery radars and a scud missile unit.
With the forward observers, retransmission teams and the Fire Direction Center, or FDC, spread miles apart but communicating easily, 10-digit grid coordinates are determined by the forward observers and called into the FDC.
"The FDC processes the data and distances then sends the information to the launcher who re-verifies everything," Rossi explained. "Then, the launchers alert the observers to be ready to observe, and given the command, the launcher fires."
There are three different qualification events for a HIMARS Table VI certification: fire when ready, at my command, and time on target.
A fire-when-ready mission gives the location but allows the chief to fire at his discretion. An at-my-command mission means the Fire Direction Center tells the chief when to flip the switches to shoot. Lastly, a time-on-target mission usually encompasses multiple sections that fire at the same time to hit a specific target, at a given time.
The Soldiers shot M28A1 rockets, reduced range practice rockets, shooting an average of about seven kilometers, though the practice rocket has a range up to 15 km. Other rockets and missiles that a HIMARS can fire have a range beyond 180 miles, when needed.
"The reduced range practice rocket has all the same physical makeup of a [standard] rocket but without the explosives," said Rossi. "It is basically like a telephone pole because it is wooden inside but the backend has the rocket propeller."
Four of the final five days of the exercise featured live-fire scenarios, making for many booming background noises for those around the training area.
Sgt. Matthew Mathis, a signal support systems specialist, witnessed the rockets firing for the first time in his career.
"Being out here and see something as exciting as these rockets makes it worth being in the Army," he said.
Staff Sgt. Carl Schwander, a B Battery platoon sergeant, was pleased with his observations during the exercise.
"I am out here making sure that my guys are increasing their awareness of everything, to include shooting, medical care, reacting to contact and especially crew drills," he said.
"I've got a couple seasoned [non-commissioned officers], but four new crews who need to figure out what 'exactly right' looks like out here, and they only way they can find out is through time and experiencing scenarios like this. They have learned a lot out here, especially how to keep a positive attitude when you have very little sleep," said Schwander.
One of the newest members of the battalion received a traditional welcome during the field training. First Sgt. Carl Fryday couldn't locate his patrol cap on one of the days because it was taped to a launcher and blown to pieces.
"Sometimes guys will have another cap out here or sometimes it means that the first sergeant will have us wear our helmets the entire duration if he didn't bring an extra one," said Rossi. "It's a rite of passage that they know is a warm welcome so even if they don't express it, we know they enjoy it when they get their hat handed back to them that's been blown to pieces."