CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. – The Milwaukee-based 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery, which consists of Alpha Battery, Bravo Battery, the 108th Forward Support Company and its Headquarters Battery, conducted annual training at Camp Ripley in June.
The battalion, designated as "Dark Skies" by the U.S. Army Center of Military History, specializes in using the high-mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) to provide precise rocket and missile fires on enemy positions and targets of significance.
During their annual training, the unit certified HIMARS crews, completed weapons and hand-grenade qualification.
"Our crews have to go through different tables for certification," said Staff Sgt. Dustin Richards, HIMARS truck chief with A Battery 121st FA. "If the round goes downrange and lands where it's supposed to, and all radio chatter is done correctly, then that counts as a certification and a correct fire mission."
The 121st FA arrived at Camp Ripley June 18 after a 10-hour drive over two days, then traveled downrange to set up tents for the week.
This year's training is the first experience the Soldiers have had at Camp Ripley. The unit normally travels to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, where they are more familiar with the layout.
"Everyone's at square one trying to figure out where everything goes and where everything is," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Renow, assistant battalion operations NCO for the 121st FA. "Here, we have to bust out the map and figure out where we are going."
For one Soldier, Sgt. Macy Brogan from Bravo Battery, who has served with the 121st FA for almost four years, the experience was her first as a gunner and a launcher for the HIMARS.
"This was my first time shooting live rockets," said Brogan. "It was unique and an awesome experience. Feeling my stomach drop as I'm about to hit fire, I call up one shot and my head slams against the door."
Brogan was wearing a helmet to protect her head.
"I was like, oh my goodness," she continued. "That's what it feels like to shoot a rocket?!"
And just like that, Brogan was ready to fire again.
"That was awesome," she said.
Brogan graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with bachelor's degrees in biology and psychology in May. While she made friends in college, she believes that those in her unit will be lifelong friends.
"Being a female in field artillery is new, but that doesn't faze anyone at all," said Brogan. "It feels like home no matter where you go in the 121."