By Staff Sgt. Jon CuppMarch 19, 2007
CAMP TAJI, Iraq (Army News Service, March 19, 2007) - While many artillerymen get the opportunity to fire artillery pieces only in training, Soldiers from the 82nd Field Artillery Regiment's Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, have already fired more than 1,100 rounds in real-world missions to engage enemy targets in support of combat operations in theater.
Since the first calibration of the M109A6 Paladin howitzers in early December, Alpha Battery has supported combat operations every day by firing their Paladins. The unit has supported operations with everything from counterfire to suppressive fire, as well as striking pre-planned targets. They have also cleared routes for combat missions along and provided base camp security.
Yet one of the Soldiers' most memorable moments came March 13 as they fired the new Modular Artillery Charge System.
"We're on the brink of history," said Capt. Derek Baird, Alpha Battery commander. Baird said the event marked the first time the MACS have been fired in the combat zone by an entire battery of Paladins.
The MACS system, used in conjunction with a projectile, is a refined propellant that facilitates higher rates of fire and extends range capabilities for the howitzers, Baird explained. The pre-measured charges, which are packaged in cylindrical, toilet-paper roll-shaped canisters, push or propel projectiles from the barrels of the howitzer.
The charges also help to lessen the work of the old way of measuring charges, whereby bag charges were cut and then unused portions had to be disposed of - waisting powder, added Baird.
Alpha Battery will use the MACS in conjunction with a new munition they will receive training on and implement within the next few months - the Excalibur.
"This is all very exciting. Our firing of the MACS is in preparation to get Excalibur," said Baird. "This is the final step before it's fielded to us, and all of our crews have qualified on it."
Baird said his Soldiers have been fortunate to work with the howitzers, as changes in the field artillery branch have led to fewer opportunities to employ howitzers.
"Now they're working more in roles that concentrate on doing foot patrols, pulling tower guard and doing cordon and searches," said Baird.
"One of the most important things for my Soldiers is the fact that they're actually getting to do artillery tasks, and for them this is great and I could not be more proud of their performance today," Baird added. "We're the only true 'hot gun' battery in theater - others may have only one gun firing at any given time in support of real world missions. We're using our entire battery all the time."
First Lt. Sidney Wilson, an Alpha Battery platoon leader, said he was impressed with the MACS and hopes his Soldiers will remember the experience.
"They should take pride in being the first battery to fire these in theater," said Wilson. "When they go home, this is something they can tell their families about."
Spc. Eduardo Briseno, a cannoneer who loads and fires howitzers, had his own take on what the day's firing meant to him.
"I love it, I can't really explain it. There's nothing else that compares with this and nothing else I'd rather be doing," said Briseno. "Knowing that we've made history today in firing the MACS ... this really feels awesome."
(Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp writes for the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Public Affairs.)