By Pfc. Jared Eastman, 1st BCT Public AffairsFebruary 19, 2009
FT. BENNING, GA. A seemingly distant rumble drifts across a firing point in the Fort Stewart training area, the common sound is the only signifier of the hellish rain that is soon to follow. Further down range and out of the impact area, Soldiers watch from vantage points like hawks, waiting for the impact they control.
Soldiers of 3/69 Headquarters and Headquarters Company conducted mortar gunnery, Feb. 11th as part of their qualification.
"Today we're doing mortar gunnery with the battalion mortar platoon," said Capt. Rick Turner, HHC 3/69 Armor commander. "They are out here certifying for the second time in the less than a month, last month we were out here with our fire support element and this week is our certification."
A fire mission flies across the wire to mortar team, and the team moves instantly as Soldiers hang rounds and fire.
"The Soldiers are performing phenomenally," said Turner, "Our fire supporters up on the hill are getting great training on calling for and adjusting fire, our mortars are getting great training as well, it's turned into a great event for us. One, it insures our fire support teams are certified to call for fire timely and accurate fires, in addition to that it certifies that our battalion mortars are capable of said fires."
But moving an entire mortar platoon out to a firing point is by no means an easy task, especially when there are prerequisites for performing mortar qualification.
"As far as planning goes," said Turner, "The Soldiers have been working on this since October, because there are a series of events that have to go into actually hanging the mortar rounds and firing. We started with mortar gunnery exams, which are paper and practical, all the way up to the gunnery last month now we are at the main event, which is the mortar gunnery."
But once the Soldiers got out there, they had even more exercises to finish before the actual fire exercise.
"We got out here Monday," said Turner, "To start the gunnery portion, with the fisters setting up the observation point on OP 1, then the mortars establishing their firing point. Initially we went through our dry fire exercises, firing maneuver, hip shoots, time on target exercises and then culminating in the live fire event starting last night then into this morning."
However, for all the prerequisites, combat checks and lost sleep, the event was a success for all the mortars.
"The mortar gunnery is a great event because it integrates our fire supporters and our mortar platoon which is a battalion level asset," said Turner, "And it's great to see the two come together. I am extremely proud of our Soldiers, they worked hard, they are working hard, and they'll continue to work hard."