DONA ANA, N.M. -- As waves of heat, sand and a blistering wind scorched the vast Chihuahuan desert at the Dona Ana Range Complex, N.M., Soldiers work together to tackle a monumental task.
The Iron Soldiers of 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division conducted a Table XVIII gunnery training event May 7 as a measure to qualify their field artillery, or large-caliber guns, capabilities.
"Table XVIII is a battalion-level qualification where a field artillery battalion conducts different field artillery tasks," said Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Minton, the senior enlisted advisor for 4-27 FA. "These tasks include suppressive fire and time on targets as we execute Table XVIII."
Suppressive fire is a field artillery task which is designed to limit the effectiveness of an enemy, while time on target refers to the coordinated effort of many artillery fires to hit a singular designated target at the same time.
The Table XVIII gunnery tests 4-27 FA's ability to accurately fire multiple M109A6 Paladin howitzer self-propelled guns to best provide accurate and precise artillery support while mirroring the stress of real-world combat scenarios preparing the battalion for combat operations.
"All of 4-27 FA's batteries come together to complete this collective task as a battalion," said Minton. "We provide accurate, timely and lethal directional support for artillery firers in support of combined arms and 2ABCT."
The Table XVIII qualification mission is the culminating event of training and preparation, which began in December 2018, to test and qualifying the combat capabilities of 2ABCT.
"We've been training since December to train and complete each gunnery table," said Minton. "We are doing this to prepare for training exercises Iron Focus 19.1 and for a rotation to the National Training Center (NTC)."
The M109A6 Paladin is manned by four Soldiers: the commander, driver, gunner and loader. Training such as the Table XVIII gunnery qualification tests the mental and physical fortitude of the 4-27 FA Soldiers, emphasizing the necessity for teamwork, quick and precise operational flexibility.
"In my section, I teach every single duty and job in an M109A6 Paladin to my Soldiers," said Sgt. Weston Patton, a cannon crewmember and chief assigned to 1st Section, Battery A, 4-27 FA. "Even if I go down, any Soldier can take my job just as easily, they can continue the mission and stay in the fight."
These Soldiers train, live, sleep and fight alongside each other every day during these missions, which emulate the harsh conditions of being deployed in a combat zone. The training event builds an unbreakable sense of camaraderie and partnership allowing for a more cohesive and effective battalion.
"It's all about having some mental toughness," said Spc. Garrett Kaiser, a cannon crewmember assigned to Battery B, 4-27 FA. "You learn how to get really down and dirty as you live outside, work outside and come together as a team in close quarters."
Communication between Soldiers is a vital part of 4-27's FA's ability to remain a ready and lethal fighting force. It is imperative for the crew of an M109A6 Paladin to always be aware and conscious of their counterparts as the fast-paced nature of field artillery can be chaotic without that link.
"Communication has to be clear and present so we're able to always keep it together," said Patton. "If we're all on the same page and work together efficiently, we'll get the mission done quicker, smoother and easier."
Training scenarios emphasizing intense time restraints and a pressure to succeed allowing Soldiers to become resilient to obstacles using both their training and ingenuity to overcome hurdles.
"With everything that can be thrown at you, you try to find the best solution," said Garrett. "We are able to get together fast, fix the problem, shoot or communicate and do whatever we need to as quick as possible."
As 4-27 FA and 2ABCT prepare for its collective training event Iron Focus 19.1, a two-week intensive training event preparing the brigade for an NTC rotation, Iron Soldiers assigned to 4-27 FA maintain their readiness and lethality while also remaining adaptable warriors able to face any mission.
"This training is extreme and difficult. It puts our Soldiers in stressful environments that replicate being in a combat and hostile environment," said Minton. "It prepares our Soldiers and gets them in the mindset to be critical and creative thinkers and to be agile leaders on the battlefield."