NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - A 46-pound artillery round explodes into the hills surrounding Forward Operating Base Kalagush, in Afghanistan's Nuristan province, as a group of Afghan National Army forward observers watch patiently, consulting their maps.
Into his radio, an ANA forward observer says, "right 500 meters."
The Fire Direction Control center, staffed by ANA officers from the 4th Kandak enters the new data into their computers and relay updated coordinates to the artillerymen waiting to fire. Within moments the 7,000 pound D-30 122mm Howitzer Artillery Cannon blasts another round, this time it's a direct hit.
U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Steve Murello, with Embedded Training Team 4-4, looks at the results, "good," he says.
According to Murello, the cloud of smoke growing in the distance marked the first time the ANA's 4th Kandak forward observers, FDC personnel and artillerymen worked together to conduct live-fire training, Aug. 2.
"Most of the guys, when they come out of school, are trained for just direct fire. They're not trained to work with forward observers or the FDC, so if they can't see it, they can't shoot it," U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Enrique Munoz said. "But by incorporating the forward observers and the FDC, now the gun-line doesn't need to have eyes on...it's all done for them."
Starting with such basic techniques as reading a map and compass, and moving into more advanced methods, such as using the newly developed Afghan Field Artillery Computer, ETT members were able to step back and allow ANA officers to run the training.
But the day's events did not come easy at times.
Accustomed to training separately, forward observers and the FDC had a series of communication breakdowns, which left the gun-line's D-30 Howitzer silent for long stretches of time.
Although occasionally frustrated, the ANA teams eventually worked through the breakdowns, and the forward observers successfully helped the artillery pound round after round into the hills using their cannon, left behind by the retreating Soviet Union in the 1980's, and older than many of the men firing it.
"It was some good training," said Murello. "Overall they did very well."
"This shows that my Soldiers can fight for our country," said ANA 1st Sgt. Roohullah Shirzi. "If [the enemy] tries to hurt our people, then we will be able to destroy them."
Embedded Training Team 4-4 is nearing completion of their 9-month deployment to Afghanistan. Their replacements, fellow Okinawa, Japan, based 3rd Marine Division troops, will continue to help the emerging Afghan military progress.