By Sgt. Javier AmadorOctober 1, 2012
Fire Support Teams from the 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, completed two weeks of rigorous, technically-demanding training, Sept. 23, to become certified in calling for indirect fires while on combat missions in future deployments.
The training began in the classroom where the Soldiers acted as graders for the Call for Fire Trainer, and took a vehicle threat identification test where they had to accurately identify over 70 different vehicles as either enemy or friendly.
They then conducted a land navigation exercise where the Soldiers also took their hands-on test on calling for fire support to earn their certification. The "Titans" spent the second week of their exercise manning observation posts while calling for live artillery rounds on targets, to provide support for the 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, for their firing table certifications.
Certifications for Fire Support Teams are normally conducted twice a year, ensuring that perish-able skills that are not used consistently are kept current and readily available to the Soldiers.
Fire support teams are Military Occupation Specialty specific, consisting of at least one commis-sioned artillery officer and four fire support specialists.
"It consists of a fire support officer, (fire support noncommissioned officer) who's also my team chief, fire support specialists and also (Radio Telephone Operators)," said 1st Lt. Christopher Fought, a Fire Support Officer with 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment. "RTOs are normally paired with (Forward Observers)."
The forward observer team is responsible for acquiring the distance and direction of a possible target. The actual targets are normally chosen by either the FSO or the FSNCO, who then com-municates them to the RTO/FSO team.
1st Lt. Fought said that the forward observers, who are usually in the rank of specialist, are paired with a radio operator, who is also a junior enlisted Soldier. The team determines a call for fire and the target's distance and direction, and the fires officer or NCO will select the final tar-get.
Once the call for fire is placed with the Fire Direction Center, the decision is made on the type of ammunition used and what unit will carry out the mission.
The proximity of friendly forces to enemy targets is always taken into consideration when a call for fire is made. Artillery rounds differ in their effect on a target as well as the amount of dis-tance from the point of impact that is needed to keep friendly forces safe.
Safety boxes are geographic areas of different sizes that are designated by the artillery unit based on the type of ammunition to be used and plotted on a map of the impact or target area. Certain types need more area than others to ensure safety.
"When we go out there, the gun line will give us their safety boxes, I plot the safety boxes on our maps. I oversee the guys to ensure they shoot safe, inside the safety boxes," said Fought.
With the many skills that the Fire Support Teams have to master, they also need to be adaptable and able to operate with the different unit types in the Army.
"You have to be open minded, we are in a (cavalry) unit so we have to have the (cavalry) scout's skills," said Sgt. Patrick Kuster, a fire support noncommissioned officer in 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment. "Last deployment we were with an infantry unit, so we had to be 11B's (In-fantrymen). We had to learn the different movement formations as well as working on vehicles and maintaining weapons."
Despite the critical demands for accuracy and precision that firing artillery rounds in unfamiliar terrain requires, and the requirement to be cross-trained in other Soldier skills, the job has its re-wards.
"It's not necessarily the hardest thing I've ever done, but it is satisfying," said Fought.