By Spc. Justin Naylor, 2nd BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.May 26, 2010
FORT HOOD, Texas- Calling for artillery fire is to a forward observer what shooting a tank is to a tanker; it's their bread and butter, and they must be able to do it successfully.
For forward observers, actually calling for real artillery rounds isn't something they get to do every day, but staying proficient on how to do it properly is a must.
For the forward observers of 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, this meant heading back into the call for fire simulator, on Fort Hood May 18, to ensure that from the most grizzled veteran down to the newest Soldier, each knew exactly what he needed to do to get a little "steel rain" on the target.
"Calling for fire is what gives us our job," said Sgt. Shane Green, a Victoria, Texas native and a team chief. "This is our livelihood."
During the training, Green, and other NCOs, worked with their Soldiers to ensure they each knew how to properly find and plot coordinates, and how to call for fire from artillery batteries via radio, which was shown on an on-screen map.
"This is what they should all know," said their fire support officer, 2nd Lt. Bryan Degen, from Warrensbug, Miss.
During the CFF training, the Soldiers also learned how to perform more complex techniques like calling in smoke to act as a tool for concealment, movement or deception.
According to Green, once the forward observers have a solid knowledge of the fundamentals, they can build on it. Eventually they can learn how to call in aerial support or even naval gunfire, but it all comes back to basics.
Although it has been a while since these forward observers have had the chance to practice, their job skills came back to them quickly once the training began.
"It started out shaky," said Degen. "Now we are down to where anyone one of our guys can pass [training] no problem."
Following the completion of the CFF course, this group will continue to fine tune its skills in preparation for certification next month.
In order to actually be able to sit on the hill and call in real artillery rounds on targets, the forward observers have to be certified, explained Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Felix, a South Floral Park, N.Y. native and the battalion fire support non-commissioned officer.
During the certification, forward observers from throughout the brigade will have their proficiencies tested as they call for fire, compete in land navigation courses, do a 12-mile rucksack march, setup and occupy an outpost and plan fire missions that support maneuver elements, according to Felix.
However, Felix emphasized that while all the tasks Soldiers are tested on during the certification are important, none is more so than knowing how to properly CFF.
"It's the essential task," he said. "It's our main job and purpose."