1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEWIS, Wash. (Army News Service, Nov. 26, 2007) - The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System is now being fielded to the 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery at Fort Lewis' Yakima Training Center -- the fourth unit Armywide to receive the rocket system mounted on a five-ton truck chasis.

The HIMARS can fire the same family of munitions as the Multiple Launch Rocket System, but HIMARS carries only one pod of six rockets instead of the MLRS' two pods or twelve rockets. The HIMARS wheeled vehicle is also lighter than the MLRS tracked vehicle.

The three battalions who already have the system are the 3rd Bn., 27th Infantry Regt., at Fort Bragg, N.C., which was the first to receive the HIMARS in 2005; the 1st Bn., 181st Field Artillery of the Tennessee National Guard and the 1st Bn., 158th Field Artillery of the Oklahoma National Guard. Both Guard units were fielded with HIMARS in 2006.

The new system can be moved by rail or air and was specifically built to be carried on the C-130 aircraft. In support of special operations, HIMARS can be rolled off an aircraft, fired and then be reloaded onto the aircraft in a matter of minutes, said Maj. Rich Amadon of the 3rd Field Artillery.

"This is a brand new weapons system for the battalion," said Lt. Col. Matt Hergenroeder, commander of the 5th Bn., 3rd FA.

"The battalion has a long history, and the motto is 'the First Round Battalion,'" he said. The battalion fired the first round for the Union Army in the Civil War and the first round at the Battle of San Juan Hill. "This is going to be our first round here, so it's a historic moment for the battalion," he said about the unit's first live-fire of the HIMAR Oct. 30.

The battalion so far has received a partial fielding of the HIMAR and more of the systems are expected in upcoming months.

After four weeks of classroom and hands-on training on HIMARS, the battalion's three-day live fire at Yakima was the last piece of their certification. While many of the Soldiers had previously fired MLRS, some had never gone through a live-fire exercise. The battalion itself had not fired since 2004, according to Capt. Travis Immesoeste, a battery commander.

"We're getting back to re-readying ourselves and being artillerymen again," Lt. Col. Hergenroeder said. "It's a big motivational boost for these guys to be able to shoot."

"It's a good system," said Staff Sgt. Chris Starnes, the crew chief leading the first battery to fire the HIMARS. "It's awesome. It's a privilege we were afforded the opportunity to do this."

Before the live-fire, the three crews practiced loading and unloading the 5,000-pound rocket pod from each HIMARS. After working out a few bugs in the new system, the battery finished with a trio simultaneously firing a three-rocket volley.

The Army plans to field HIMARS to 13 more units in the future, according to an official at the U.S. Army Field Artillery Center and School, Fort Sill, Okla.

(Rachel Young writes for the Fort Lewis "Northwest Guardian.")