CAMP HOVEY, Korea -- New equipment is always a welcome addition to any military unit but before it can be used, safety tests must be performed before Soldiers can use them. That's why the 1st Battalion, 15th Field Artillery put their 17 new M109A6 Paladins through their paces as they ran test fires, May 2, at the Korean Training Center.

The training consisted of safety drills, live fire exercises and crew drills in order to ensure the guns performed as they're supposed to.

"The mission was to come out and conduct live fire tests using newly fielded howitzers," said Capt. Chris Walsh, commander of B. Co., 1-15 FA. "We wanted to make sure there were no problems with the gun."

Soldiers immediately recognized the improvements from the old Paladins during testing and approved of the changes made to the guns.

"These are definitely better than the old ones," said Staff Sgt. Mario Gomez, field artillery crewman for B. Co., 1-15 FA. "The ride is smoother, the hydraulics are excellent and the viewing screen has improved."

Safety is paramount during test fires. In order to reduce the risk, Soldiers have to go through certain steps and maintain a certain level of awareness.

"First thing we do with a new gun is the Fire Control Alignment Test," Gomez said. "We do this to make sure that the tube and the viewing screen are pointed in the same direction and then we do crew drills to verify that we, the operators, are doing everything right."

After the checks are completed, the first round is shot with a 50 ft. lanyard outside the Paladin.

For some, this was the first time firing live rounds in country and many were excited to finally put months of training into action.

"It felt good," said Pvt. Thomas Hamblin, field artillery crewman for B. Co., 1-15 FA. "I always wanted to fire from a Paladin and we've been training hard for this moment."

Walsh commended the battalion's hard work and preparation that went into the training as the guns had to be put to the test almost immediately after receiving them.

"We got these guns less than three weeks before going to the field," he said. "Our NCOs did an outstanding job prepping both the Soldiers and the guns and the fact that we shot safely speaks volumes for all of them."