FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (March 21, 2016) -- One hundred fifty-five millimeter high explosive rounds rain from the sky, while the sonic boom of the impact follows and the smoke clears from the barrel of a M109A6 howitzer paladin at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from March 10 to 11, 2016.
North Carolina National Guard soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment, are the first Army component in the U.S. to receive new fully chromed barrels to be seated onto howitzer paladins during their annual training.
"The 30th Brigade is one of the top tier National Guard brigades, so as such we tend to be on the top of the list for a number of new fielding's, so we can be ready to fight whenever we need to be," said Lt. Col. David Walker, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment.
Howitzer Paladins require a nine-man crew in order to safely operate and fire these machines. They are used to support infantry and armor units using various types of ammunition. Master Sgt. Montez McLean, an intelligence noncommissioned officer assigned to the 1st Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment said with normal wear and tear, the elements and age all contribute to the replacement of these barrels.
"We have to fire two rounds per gun because the tubes are new," said McLean. "We want to make sure that the tubes are properly seated so they won't come out of battery."
The Battalion Tactical Operating Center controls the scenario that Bravo Battery is participating in, creating a situation that has happened in a simulated location. Forward observers are stationed a distance away to observe the enemy.
The observers, are the ones that select the targets," said 1st Lt. William Coggins, a fire direction officer assigned to the 1st Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment. "They let you know when you fire the rounds, where you plot and adjust the targets."
Once a target is identified, forward observers notify the Fire Direction Center that computes data using the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Delivery System. This automated system calculates precise locations of the target needed for the actual Howitzers or to fire, while avoiding friendly casualties and damage.
"When we get that information it is either going to be a grid or polar, which is a distance direction, and then they are going to give us a target description," said Coggins. "We're going to contact the guns once we input that information. We have our own list of data, called quadrant of elevation, which is how high the tube of the gun raises and then deflection, which is the left and right."
To make the simulation more realistic, intelligence analysts play the enemy to throw different scenarios into the mix of training. This type of training allows soldiers to learn from their mistakes, but also helps them to learn to anticipate what the enemy might do during a combat situation.
"I think like the enemy," said Staff Sgt. Taylor Sword, an intelligence analyst noncommissioned officer assigned to the 1st Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment. "I know what the enemy is going to do, how they are going to do it and when they are going to do it. The staff plan the operation how they want to, and I let them know what the enemy is going to do. That way we can better plan and have successful missions."
Sword also had the opportunity to train Moldovan army officers embedded with the 1-113th FA during their annual training. The Moldovans also observed different aspects of the field artillery training including the seating of the chrome tubes.
"We tried to understand how to do better in the planning process and want to implement that into our army," said Moldovan National army 1st Lt. Ivanov Dumitru, battery commander, Artillery Battalion, Land Forces Command. "The guys are very experienced. They know their work."
Moldova has worked with the NCNG through the State Partnership Program since 1995. The program was formed to create a bond between the two organizations while conducting military-to-military and civilian-to-military activities to maintain international defensive security and will continue strengthening our partnership.
"It builds their capability and their confidence up," said Maj. Gen. Greg Lusk, the adjutant general of North Carolina. "It has good military value, but it also has good strategic value too. As they themselves as a country, try to determine where they are going to go in the future, they have a lot of turmoil politically in Moldova, so this demonstrates their commitment also, that they would send their group over here to train with us in the United States, so it's a very broad and strategically important thing to do."