GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – With less than 12 days in Germany, the Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment conducted their first live fire from the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HiMARS) here at the Grafenwoehr Training Area (GTA) on March 11, 2021.
Forty-eight hours after notification of deployment more than 300 Soldiers with 3-321st FAR arrived in Germany on February 28, 2022 from their home base Fort Bragg, North Carolina as part of the immediate response force to bolster numbers of U.S. troops in Europe and add a highly mobile, long-range precision fires platform in support of NATO defense.
“It’s remarkable; being alerted at Fort Bragg, loading up on airplanes, arriving here in Germany, drawing equipment and putting rounds down range in 12 days is huge,” said Lt. Col. John Morgan, the 3-321st battalion commander. “You could think something this fast paced, and being away from home, they could be down on themselves, but it’s been exactly the opposite. It’s been an adrenaline boost for the Soldiers; they are excited to be here.”
The first live-fire test was conducted alongside 16 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) with 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment who were executing their Table XVIII battalion live fire, making it the largest live fire conducted on GTA in recent history with 18 launchers firing at once.
“It was different, you never line up that many crews at once and put that many rockets down range,” said Sgt. Thomas Ayon, a crew chief assigned to Baker Battery, 3-321st. “I felt nervous, but it felt good, a little exciting like you get this pump in your system, all the adrenaline going and everybody just shooting over. It’s pretty awesome.
The M-142 HiMARS are part of the Army’s prepositioned stocks here in Europe. The Soldiers were able to quickly draw the first couple launchers within days and test them for deployment with the support of the 41st Field Artillery Brigade, the only U.S. based field artillery brigade in Europe.
“We drew our equipment on time. We had excellent maintenance support on ground to help us both on the communications side and the maintenance side to make sure all our systems were working,” said Sgt. 1st Class Cody Lindholm, a HiMARS platoon sergeant with 3-321st FAR. “We are up, fully operational and ready to fire pretty quickly after being here.”
The rocket artillery unit adds a flexible deterrence option for U.S. and NATO forces as it is smaller than an MLRS, fits in a C-130 and can be flown to any airstrip in Europe, fire and return in only a few hours as demonstrated by the 41st FAB in Romania during Exercise Rapid Falcon in November 2020 with the 352nd Special Operations Wing.
When asked what’s next for these 13M HiMARS crew members, Ayon said proudly while standing side-by-side with his launcher crew, “Whatever they tell us, we are prepared to execute.”
Lindholm said, “Next is we continue training. We continue testing our systems and going through different artillery tables to make us more proficient at what we do to continue to defend NATO countries.”
The Soldiers of 3-321 will continue to draw the rest of their 16 launchers and get them ready for their next live fire at GTA on March 24, to ensure they are prepared to support any operations in support of NATO Allies.
Lindholm finished by saying, “I’m proud to be here in Germany supporting all these nations, not just mine, to be ready to defend freedom.”