By Spc. Ryan Stroud, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public AffairsOctober 10, 2007
BAQOUBA, Iraq (September 13, 2007) - It is not every day a unit in the U.S. Army achieves one of the highest standards set in relation to their specific mission, and even raises the bar on those standards while deployed to Iraq. But when a unit does, whether formally recognized or not, there is a sense of accomplishment among the team.
Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, 3rd "Grey Wolf" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is Multi-National Division-North's best and most respected field artillery batteries operating in northern Iraq today, said Lt. Col. Tony Bryant, MND-N's fires and effects officer in charge.
"We have fired almost 4,300 rounds of artillery throughout this deployment," Capt. Sean O'Keefe, the battery's executive officer humbly admitted when discussing an accomplishment normally achieved by a battalion-sized field artillery unit.
Proudly discussing the capabilities of his battery, O'Keefe said, "We've conducted more missions and fired more rounds than [any other battery] in [Multi-National Division-North]," he added after confirmation of this information by Bryant.
Firing the most rounds as a battery-sized element is not the only accomplishment for these Soldiers said Bryant. They are also the first battery in MND-N to fire an Excalibur round, a GPS guided ammunition, in theatre combat responding to troops in contact, while running 24 hour-a-day operations in Diyala province.
"We provide 24-hour artillery fire coverage in the Diyala province," said O'Keefe, a native of Yonkers, N.Y.
"We've got men on the gun line, men in the Fire Direction Center, so we have fires available whenever anyone needs a mission - we are never closed," he added.
"Anyone who calls for fires through Grey Wolf, as long as they have the clearance... we send [ammunition] downrange," Staff Sgt. Donald Whann, a member of A Battery, and a native of Modesto, Calif.
"Every challenge we've been faced with, we've always done what we could to help out those around us and never turn anyone away. We've risen to the occasion each time," O'Keefe said.
"The Excalibur round is a way to bring back artillery and accuracy into the fight. We, as a battery, have been given a thumbs up to firing into a city without the Excalibur round because of how accurate we are," O'Keefe said.
"The Excalibur round is a great piece of ammunition used to help keep us in the fight, but it's been our exceptional firing that has kept us in," he continued. "We were the first to fire the round in Iraq during an operation and we've fired the most Excalibur rounds out of the MND-North."
A Battery's success hasn't come from luck-of-the-draw Soldiers coming to the unit; it's come from countless hours of training and preparing for the unthinkable.
"Some people get off days; we never really do," said Whann. "As soon as the day begins, we're training. We are constantly on our toes."
"Everyday we have to make sure that our weapons have been [maintained]," he continued. "Maintenance is so very important. That weapon cannot fire if you don't take care of it."
"Training is important because it keeps our Soldiers on such high level of standards," Whann added. "They have to know how to conduct each person's job just in case something ever happens. If something ever happened to me, I know [my guys] could pick up where I was and continue to send rounds downrange."
Whann's unique training methods molds his Soldiers into being battle-ready fighters.
"There will be times when we're training and I'll just fall [to the ground]," joked Whann. "My guys will be like, 'What are you doing, Chief'' I'll just lie there, playing dead, and then they know they need to rotate positions and keep running the mission. That forces the guys to react, adapt and finish the mission at hand.
"With us staying [up-to-date] with the standards, we're ready for any call to come down to us," he said. "We're ready for anything that could be thrown at us."
These artillerymen are not only ready for anything; they thoroughly enjoy their jobs. A Battery pride themselves on exceptional performance they strived to attain while in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08.
"This job really is motivating at times," said Spc. Jesus Perez, a native of Bovina, Texas. "When a fire mission comes down, you run to the guns ready to shoot. You've been waiting for your chance and now you're all pumped up."
"It is motivating," Spc. Emmanuelle Reyes, a native of Bronx, N.Y., agreed. "You get your energy going and you know that you're helping troops in contact, trying to make a difference. Knowing that we might be blowing up a building that the enemy is hiding in to help our guys get the job done is really a great feeling."
Reyes' noted one of the most important accomplishments his unit has achieved is the great numbers his unit holds.
"We pride ourselves on speed and safety," he said. "You have to be fast at your job because peoples' lives could be on the line, but safe at all times."
Though the battery's deployment is coming to an end, these artillerymen said they will stay focused until they are on the plane home. They said it's been a hard deployment at times but a successful one.
"This is an unbelievable experience that I've gotten to work with the Soldiers in this platoon and in our battery," said O'Keefe. "We've had all different kinds of missions thrown at us and been given the opportunity to prove what we can do and how good we are at our jobs."
"We have proven that artillery still has a significant position in modern military battlefield," he continued. "My Soldiers have risen to the occasion every time and it's completely humbling to be in charge of guys like this."
O'Keefe smiled and spoke confidently about his Soldiers and how proud he is of them.
"I am absolutely proud of my guys," said O'Keefe. "The unit before us shot 1,000 rounds in the same location we quadrupled that [amount of rounds fired]. I'm very proud of that and the fact that my guys have been able to handle everything thrown at them."