By Pfc. Justin Naylor, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsMarch 27, 2009
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, Kirkuk, Iraq-The concussion rattles the chest as flames erupt from the barrel of the M109A6 self-propelled 155MM Howitzer, also known as a Paladin. The blasts could be heard around post, and it shook the nearby buildings.
Calibrating the Paladins is not a quiet task, but it is an important one for the Soldiers of Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, who had the opportunity to adjust the Paladins to ensure their accuracy Feb. 13 at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq.
We want to make sure we are going to be able to hit whatever we are aiming the Paladins at, said Bronx, N.Y. native 1st Sgt. Derrick Webb, the 1st Sgt. for Battery B.
There are quite a few factors involved in calibrating the Paladins, said Webb. According to Webb, the muzzle velocity of the rounds is checked as they depart the Paladins by testing how much gas escapes around the round when it is being fired. This gives the crew and fire direction controllers a better idea of how far the round will go; the more gas that escapes, the less distance that the round will travel. Knowing this enables the crews and FDC's to make adjustments to the Paladin to compensate for these factors. The computer on the Paladin records this data and includes it when it is calculating the correct flight, along with factors such as the type of round, weather conditions and the earth's rotation.
The calibration was also an opportunity for the artilleryman of Battery B to train with the weapons for the first time since arriving in Iraq.
This gives us a chance to get a little more familiar with Paladins, said East Peoria, Ill. native Pfc. Wesley Bernius, an artilleryman for Battery B. It's an opportunity for us to see where the rounds are hitting and what adjustments need to be made to ensure the accuracy of the Paladins.
The calibration was an opportunity for the Soldiers in the Paladins to keep up on their artillery skills, said Kansas City, Mo. Native Staff Sgt. Timothy Thacker, the fire direction non-commissioned officer. It is a perishable skill and if the Soldiers don't use them they will lose them. A lot of the Soldiers from Battery B are currently tasked out to do patrols and convoys, but they need to be able to switch to firing artillery at any given moment.
After firing the rounds, adjustments were made to the Paladins, and the Soldiers of Battery B were able to have confidence in the fact that if they aim their artillery at a target, they can hit it.