Bastogne Soldiers couldn’t ask for a better day as the sun shone, the temperatures were mild and the deafening sound of 155mm howitzer rounds destroyed targets on the range at Observation Post 5.
The No Slack Cougars of C Company, 2nd Battalion 327th Infantry Regiment, and the Proud Americans of 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, both from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) joined forces April 12-16 during Table V of their fire coordination exercise.
The Proud Americans are conducting their battalion artillery readiness training with fire missions at the battery level and above. Just two weeks prior, the regiment mastered firing and maneuvering indirect fires at the platoon level. With that knowledge, the unit is now working with No Slack to blend the art and science of warfare through a thorough fires plan supporting maneuver elements.
First Lieutenant Johnson Chapman, fire support officer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2-32nd FAR, is attached to C Co., 2-327th Inf. Regt., and in charge of indirect fires for the unit. He leads a lot of the training to help the platoon leaders and noncommissioned officers create and execute an indirect fires plan.
“I work for Capt. [James] Fiser to incorporate fires into his maneuver plan,” Chapman said. “I am here to enable him some freedom of maneuver, build and expand their fight.”
Although Chapman is a subject matter expert on fires as a field artillery officer, he wants everyone in the company and the unit to master it and know how to use the various indirect fires assets available to them.
“My FOs [forward observers] sat down with each of the PLs [platoon leaders] to make a fires plan,” Chapman said. “We leaned on them heavily to use less FO support so that if they didn’t have the FIST [fires support team] here they could plan fires and call for fire on their own. We want to build their technical knowledge to utilize the fires that’s not just organic to them. Cougar and No Slack have the 60, 81 and 120mm mortars organic to them. The Proud Americans have the 105mm howitzer and the M777s. You throw some CAS [close air support] in there from the Air Force to train as well and you have a really lethal indirect fire composition that is at their disposal.”
Chapman, Fiser and battalion leadership maneuvered down the range with the forward observers to watch and mentor the young lieutenants execute their fires plan. Once on the call for fire lane, at the platoon leader’s command, artillery and mortar rounds quickly destroyed the targets identified.
Yet, it wasn’t just the C Co., 2-327th Inf. Regt., platoon leaders who were training to call for fire.
Second Lieutenant Clayton Warren, distribution platoon leader, Forward Support Company, 426th Brigade Support Battalion, is attached to No Slack Battalion as a vital leader in their logistics plan.
Although Warren is not a combat arms officer, he still finds it vital to maximize the opportunities to protect his Soldiers while out on convoys. It is one of the many lessons learned while at the Joint Readiness Training Center-Fort Polk, Louisiana, as the templated enemy known as Geronimo consistently targets the convoys.
“Theoretically, we’re trying to pull our own security when we’re on a convoy,” he said. “If we come under contact this training allows us to reach out to resources to prevent us from getting killed and effectively engaged by the enemy. This allows me to protect the convoy and serve the battalion more effectively.”
This was Warren’s first time calling for fire.
“I drive convoys, he said. “At first, I thought I was swimming and out of my league, but Cougar Company bent over backwards to help me out a lot. They were very helpful training me and all the Soldiers really worked with me to be able to come out here and execute this. I’m very thankful for them. This was really a lot of fun. Hearing the rounds impact and knowing that was you calling for them, and they were actually on target was amazing. I really appreciate Capt. Fiser and all of Cougar for training me.”
Warren was not the only Soldier having a day of firsts at Observation Post 5. The 60mm mortar rounds that landed with precision on targets were fired for the first time by Pfc. Samuel Harlan, indirect fire infantryman, C Co., 2-327 Inf. Regt.
Harlan had a busy week before coming out to fire his first live mortar rounds with the unit.
“I just graduated Air Assault School on Monday,” he said. “I took my EIB physical training test on Tuesday, I immediately came to the field on Wednesday and I just fired my first mortar round today. I enjoyed every minute of it. This is the best part. I mean, every time I’m out here it’s a different learning experience, and I’m always going to keep striving for perfection until it’s done.”
Soldiers and leaders like Harlan and Warren wanting to assist the unit in becoming great was right in line with their battalion commander’s intent for the No Slack maneuver battalion.
“Lieutenant Colonel DaSilva always tells us the difference between a good maneuver unit and a great maneuver unit,” Chapman said. “That difference is having not only a great maneuver plan but a great fires plan.”
The fires coordination exercise with both battalions partnering together ensures just that.