YEONCHEON, Republic of Korea -- Grumbling sounds of the engines of M109A6 Paladins rattled the quietness of the snow and the mountains as 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-US Combined Division conducted Table XII certification at Yeoncheon, Republic of Korea on Dec. 6, 2017.
Table XII certification is the qualification of each platoon utilizing a challenging tactical scenario while also capturing assessments and lessons learned for each unit.
3-16 FAR is originally from Texas and this was their first live-fire exercise in the Republic of Korea for most of the Soldiers. They were experiencing a totally different environment.
"I just got here four days ago, so this is my first time being out here with this battery and my section," said Sgt. Tobias Garza, a cannon crewmember assigned to Battery C.
"We came from Texas, so it was pretty different going from the heat to the snow," said Cpl. Gepo Stewart, an Oklahoma native and a cannon crewmember assigned to Battery A. "I'm not used to the cold like this."
Along with the weather, the environment of the training area was also different from their home station. They had to be much more precise due to a smaller firing area.
"The main difference between Republic of Korea and Texas is the size of the firing points," said Sgt. Nathan Bookout, a Colorado native and a cannon crewmember assigned to Battery A. "In Korea, they're [firing points] a lot smaller, so we had to be more precise and accurate. We had to be within +-0.5 mils, which is a very small window."
This was the first exercise to participate as a team chief for Bookout. During the exercise, Bookout provided guidance and training to his Soldiers in order to successfully carry out their fire mission.
"This is my first time being in an NCO position in this kind of training," said Bookout. "So it was a really big step for me, especially when we conducted Table VI, because it was my first time certified as a section chief. This was a really good experience for me."
Table VI is different from Table XII, because it was a section-level certification, whereas Table XII was more platoon-sized.
Although it was Bookout's first time as a chief, he managed his Soldiers to perform their best abilities. Despite the smaller impact zones, the Soldiers successfully carried out their fire missions.
"Although the zone was small, every single round we shot went right to where it was supposed to go," said Bookout. "And I was very satisfied with my Soldiers."
"I've learned a lot about my Soldiers, I've learned a different life," said Garza. "I came from a light unit, like light artillery, but now I'm in a heavy artillery unit. So it's a different way of life for me, and a different mentality."
For most of the Soldiers, this was their first time conducting a firing exercise with Soldiers from another nation. It was their first time working with Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA).
"I felt it is great that we work with KATUSAs," said Staff Sgt. Julius Shannon, a cannon crewmember and a Howitzer Section Chief assigned to Battery C. "We learned their country's cultures, and we taught them ours."
"It feels great working with them," said Bookout. "It was definitely a really good learning experience for myself, learning their cultures, learning how they operate, getting to know them, and introducing them to our cultures and how we do things."
Not only did KATUSAs enjoy training with U.S. Army Soldiers but they also noticed that they are professional and take their roles seriously.
"U.S. Army Soldiers are very fun," said Pfc. Sang Gi Seo, a Daegu native and a cannon crewmember assigned to Battery A. "However, when it comes to missions, they get really serious and professional. They are all very hardworking, and I like them because they play when they have to play, and work when they have to work."
"This is actually my first time operating a Paladin," said Garza, "so safety and maintenance on these things was challenging for me."
Since it was the first time firing an M109A6 paladin and conducting a mission in ROK for most of the Soldiers, they learned a lot from this training.
"During the training, the rammer broke, and we panicked a lot," said Stewart, "so I've learned that not to panic is the most important part during the exercise. I've learned to keep my emotions controlled, and that helped me a lot."
It wasn't just training in the Republic of Korea that is different, but for some of the Soldiers, like Garza, training in a different unit and with KATUSAs was very meaningful.
"I definitely learned a lot from this," said Garza. "This unit is very different from my previous ones, so I learned how to operate within this type of unit. Also, just getting to know the people and becoming a part of the team was very meaningful for me."
View more full images of this event on the 210th Field Artillery Brigade Flickr page https://www.flickr.com/photos/210fib/albums/72157690612989035