Pfc. Vincent Gomez is awake. It’s well past midnight. The dull glow of the dashboard illuminates his face as he listens to bugs chirping and the soft diesel engine idle. All of his training has led up to this night when his team gets the signal to fire.
Back then it was just another range qualification. Now, as a part of the Army’s Immediate Response Force (IRF), Gomez and the rest of the Soldiers in Able battery, 3-321st Field Artillery Regiment (HIMARS) continually train and maintain certifications for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.
Artillery regiments across Fort Bragg cycle on and off of the Army's IRF mission, each regiment continually preparing. The 3-321st is slated to hand off the IRF mission to the 3-327th FAR (HIMARS) next.
“Our ability to project lethal, strategic fires and train the high-rain mission builds our expeditionary readiness capabilities,” Lt. Col. John Bradley, commander, 3-327th Field Artillery Battery, said. “When we are needed, we can fight right off the ramp with a shared understanding.”
As training commences for both units, the stage is set to perform simulated raid exercises with their HIMARS vehicles. Soldiers from the 3-321st train on a live-fire range in the sweltering summer heat of Fort Bragg, North Carolina and communicate with Soldiers from the 3-327th as they load and secure their vehicles into the bellies of C-17 Globemaster IIIs before heading out to Virginia.
“Regardless of what we face, be it sleepless nights and intense heat, we have to push through. I see my chief and my gunner do it which tells me I can continue, too,” Gomez said.
With a constant stream of data flowing through 3-327th GPS systems’ in flight, they are able to pinpoint their targets as they roll off the aircraft at A.P. Hill, Virginia. Secondary target coordinates are sent from the tactical action center on Fort Bragg, North Carolina to the team in Virginia for action.
Being active on the Army's IRF mission means those Soldiers assigned are on-call to be deployed and anywhere in the world within 18 hours. In the early 2000s, the Global Response Force was created to be able to show force and take action anywhere in the world on moments notice and then ultimately was replaced with the IRF. The first emergency deployment of this force came in January 2020.
“We load up with no notice in Fort Bragg to project strategic fires globally,” Bradley said. “Being able to shoot a rocket within 300 kilometers makes it so we can shape the battlefield. We’re a combat multiplier.”
Sgt. 1st class Rajeshwar Maurya, assigned to Able Battery 3-321st Field Artillery Regiment (HIMARS), pulls into the training area cherry-faced and drenched in sweat. The senior non-commissioned officer hops out of his humvee, behind a cloud of dust, prepared to instruct his Soldiers.
“Making sure my guys are ready is my personal goal,” Mauryasaid. “Every day I always think about what more I can learn and teach to make my Soldiers better at our craft.”
The training goal is to make sure everyone is competent, trained and proficient in their skills. There is no room for error when dealing with these weapons.
“The most exciting part about the training is when we launch the rockets,” Gomez said. “It’s like being in a cloud when the thunder strikes-- you can feel the power. It’s immense!”