By Spc. Hannah Frenchick, 20th Public Affairs DetachmentAugust 19, 2011
YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. " Firing a cannon for the first time can be scary, and for Pfc. Jason L. Austin, a cannon crewmember, that was the case.
After numerous dry runs of pulling the lanyard Austin thought he was ready for the live fire. Pulling the lanyard was the easy part, but he didn't add the charge and the pressure of the round to the equation. With his nerves getting the best of him and the fear of not pulling the lanyard hard enough and have the cannon misfire, he pulled the lanyard. Not only did Austin cause a misfire, but the strength of the Howitzer pulled him back towards the weapon.
After that first round he got right back in the saddle and successfully fired his next round.
During the past year making the small mistakes in the beginning has helped him understand the fundamentals of his job. He has created a second family with his battle buddies, and found a job that excites him one round at a time.
For some Soldiers being in the military was a childhood dream, for others the call of duty comes later in life.
"When getting ready to graduate high school, I took the ASVAB [Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery] the first time," said Austin. "I was actually getting ready to join, but my mother had a big part in that not happening. I could say it's been in the back of my mind for a while, I guess I just acted on it now."
With his wife and children back at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Austin's unit, Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion 377th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade is training at the Yakima Training
Center for two weeks in August.
Being a cannon crewmember wasn't Austin's first choice when he joined the Army, but after experiencing the excitement of firing rounds he's glad he chose this career path.
"It's one thing to say I work on the cannon, it's another thing to say I actually pull the lanyard to fire the round," said Austin. "Every round is an adrenaline rush for the simple fact that you want to hear that steel on steel."
"It's something you work hard at and it gets your blood rushing. Every round is a test of your ability and it keeps your heart rate up".
Austin has learned in the past year that teamwork is necessary to successfully fire a Howitzer.
"Everyone's job is important. The slightest detail that could throw us off, could throw the whole thing apart, and we might not be firing accurately."
He continues by explaining how working on a large weapon, like the Howitzer, has allowed his team to be close-knit and like a family.
"For the most part we are like brothers, we have our section chief who looks over us and takes care of us. Then we have our section sergeant who looks after us also. We have our roles in our family and we all get along, we blend and bond well."
A Soldier can only grow so much on their own; having a good NCO on board helps Soldiers flourish into the leaders of the future.
"They tested me and I can say I've grown a lot since I've came to the unit I've learned a lot, especially through Sgt. Hernandez, he's taught me a lot. Whether it's visual, or he gave me a task to achieve and then asked me why did I have to achieve it. That actually brought me to where I am now."
Finding the confidence to be a successful cannon crewmember isn't something Austin found on his own. He's had the support of his family, battle buddies and leadership; all who have guided him in the right direction and taught him that sometimes it takes a little bit of time and patience.