FORT SILL, Okla., July 9, 2020 -- Advanced Individual Training Soldiers in the 13R Field Artillery Firefinder Radar Operator military occupational specialty (MOS) drilled on setup and take down of a TPQ-53 Counterfire Target Acquisition Radar recently.
The 10 weeks of training also prepares Soldiers to operate and maintain the TPQ-50 Lightweight Counter Mortar, and the TPQ-36 Counter Artillery Radar Firefinder radars and associated equipment.
These radar systems are used to detect and track enemy projectiles, and alert decision makers about these threats.
Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Cipriano, A Battery, 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery, is the 13R school chief and in charge of 24 noncommissioned officers, Army civilians, and contract instructors. He arrived at Fort Sill as a 13R instructor in 2017 then moved up to senior instructor before accepting his current position in September.
Along the way the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted school for a while, but Cipriano had good things to say about his unit and instructors.
“I believe the battery, battalion, and higher headquarters prepared the schoolhouses very well to assume operations after the three-week COVID-19 safety stand down,” he said. “The instructors have done a great job enforcing the new safety standards and the students have done an even better job adhering to those standards.”
Although the pandemic interrupted his schooling and now has AIT graduate Pvt. Josias Calderon in a holding pattern awaiting transportation to his next assignment, he’s made the most of his time here.
Cipriano said he noticed how the private conducted himself and put him in charge of a work detail of graduates at the school.
“Being placed in a leadership position helps me learn how different people operate and how to work together even better,” said Calderon, from Santa Barbara, California.
Despite growing up in a city renowned for its sandy beaches, Calderon had it in his mind to serve after completing his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.
“I always felt it was something I wanted to do to give back,” he said.
He first considered the Air Force, but a chance meeting with an Army recruiter changed his allegiance.
“He was very polite and professional about everything and told me about the Army, said Calderon. “It felt like where I wanted to be.”
He first went to AIT as an 89D Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist but failed to progress. He admitted to being disappointed, but got 13R, his second chance instead. Reading of tracking rounds to figure out where the enemy was and providing information to save lives sounded good to him.
“It might not be what I wanted, but it might be what I needed. Coming to Fort Sill and being in field artillery made me find myself in a way. I started pushing myself more in PT, and started applying myself more as a leader and volunteering if there were any details. I can see now the whole experience made me a better Soldier,” he said.
Calderon will continue on with his career intent to make every day count and trying to be better than he was yesterday.
“You’ll never know your limits until you find them,” he said.
For the next class of 13R Soldiers who follow in his wake, Calderon said tests weren’t too difficult for him, and that as long as they pay attention in class and study, they should do fine.
For now, he’s attending to his duties at the 13R schoolhouse awaiting word to go on to Airborne training. After that, he hopes to test his mettle in Ranger School.
Pvt. Marquise Neal left his hometown of Enterprise, Alabama, and enlisted in the Army to better take care of his family. The recently married Soldier was granted emergency leave to be with his wife and their newborn child, but is back on his way to graduating AIT.
Neal said he’s happy with his choice of serving in the Army and his MOS, though he only had two to pick from.
He could have passed parachutes to helicopter pilots as a parachute rigger, but “I really didn’t want to jump out of aircraft on a consistent basis, so I chose 13R.”
He likes that everything is hands-on in the MOS. Though some aspects of training was tough, such as learning the radar systems software and how to operate each radar, he said their instruction was thorough.
Neal confidently stated he knew he had the right internal stuff to serve but Basic Combat Training helped him realize he had the determination to get the job done.
Similar to Calderon, Cipriano said Neal attracted the attention of instructors as being a good Soldier, and to reward that they named him a student first sergeant.
Neal said even on long days when he feels too tired to continue, he recalls why he’s there.
“My family is my motivation to keep pushing every day,” he said.
Growing up with four brothers, Army National Guard Pvt. Meagan Brewer learned to enjoy roughhousing. Now her 13R training is helping her to respond when an adversary plays rough.
“I love 13R but didn’t know how important field artillery was on the battlefield, and it’s huge,” said Brewer of her research into her MOS after her first choice, 11B Infantry, was full.
Although she didn’t fully understand the significance of the MOS, that lesson sunk in quickly.
“When you put up a radar, you have to trust your teammates to do their jobs. If they don’t do it correctly, that costs you time and that time could cost lives,” she said.
The Grove, Oklahoma, native said she is enjoying the Army and has improved her readiness. On June 18, she passed the Army Combat Fitness Test for the first time.
“I called my mom to tell her the news, and I cried,” said Brewer.
She spoke highly of the camaraderie in her class and that all will pitch in to help if someone is struggling.
As for herself, with her endurance and strength in physical training growing, Brewer’s confidence also soared.
“I can keep up with them, and they can rely on me,” she said. “If you have heart, you can do it.”