By Sgt. Nathaniel Foster, 75th Fires Brigade PAOAugust 14, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. (Aug. 14, 2012) -- Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 17th Field Artillery fine turned their skills on the M109A6 Paladin during a battalion level certification and live-fire exercise at Fort Sill, July 24.
The effectiveness of that training is measured by the Army every six months when gun sections participate in standardized certification test to remain eligible to undergo a live-fire gunnery mission. The Paladin certification was a three-part process. It consisted of Paladin Table I-IV, which is completed in garrison; Paladin Table V, which consisted of dry fire missions normally conducted in the motorpool, and Paladin Table VI, which is conducting live fire missions.
To complete the certification, gun sections in 1-17th FA had to pass the artillery skill test, the gunner's test and the gunner's written test.
The fire direction center also completed a similar evaluation to become certified to fire live rounds. The FDCs evaluation included completing the manual safety test whereby Soldiers were required to score a minimum of 90 percent.
During the evaluation, all sections were assessed on their ability to meet fire mission processing times, have no safety incidents and adhere to the battalion's standard operation procedures.
"Fire mission, fire mission, fire mission," is a radio call well known throughout the field artillery world, which translates to: Let's get down to business!
The fire mission comes first from the observer, to the battalion FDC, then down to the battery FDC before it is transmitted to the gun section. The FDC then inputs the data into its computer system and afterward transmits it to the Paladin section members.
Spc. Robert Huey, an Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System operator assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1-17th FA, said he took great pleasure to be able to work on the AFATDS and wished the battalion could shoot more rounds than they do.
An artilleryman's ability to compute and shoot rounds safely on target is now acquired easily. Soldiers must train and hone their skills to be effective at their craft. Training is a continuous process which consists of dry fire exercises throughout the year.
"You can do all the dry fire training in the motorpool all you want but coming out to the field helps you build up the confidence that you can do your job," said Pfc. Evan Warnken, A/1-17th FA gunner. One of the gunner's tasks is to verify that the data from the FDC is correct. If the data is not correct "check firing" is announced why the given data is unsafe and the corrective action taken by the gun section.
The Paladin section chief is responsible for all operations within his section. The chief is typically the most experienced and senior ranking service member assigned to the section.
"I've been on the Paladin for eight years and had a great learning experiment every time," said Sgt. Michael Kerkhoff, A/1-17th FA section chief. "Being a section chief in a Paladin unit, you have to be able to handle multiple tasks at one time."
A future training event for 1-17th FA is scheduled to provide fires for the 13F Advance Individual Training course and the Basic Officer Leader Course at Fort Sill.