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‘Lightning Battalion’ compete at Top Field

By Capt. Orlandon Howard | 2ND ABCT PUBLIC AFFAIRS | December 15, 2017

ZAGAN, Poland — The Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Com­bat Team, 1st Infantry Divi­sion, conducted a Top Gun and Top Fire Direction Cen­ter competition to determine the best Howitzer gun and FDC Nov. 19 through 23 at Torun, Poland.

     Top Gun and Top FDC are distinguished designa­tions given to artillery gun sections and fire direction center sections who best demonstrate their ability to perform crews drills associ­ated with their sections’ role in the canon firing process as well as other Soldier tasks that are critical to a section’s success.

     The “First Lightning” battalion used the event to promote healthy competi­tion and esprit de corps, and also to sustain their readi­ness and ability to deliver timely and accurate fires. They are deployed to Cen­tral Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a mission that provides a continuous U.S. armored brigade combat team pres­ence in the region.

     First Lightning compris­es six platoons with three M109A6 Paladin 155mm artillery sections per pla­toon. Each platoon is as­signed a fire direction cen­ter to direct the fires of the Howitzer sections.

      There were six FDC sec­tions who competed and the competition was tight up to the last event, said 1st Lt. Alex Plimpton, fire direc­tion officer for the winning team, Bull 20.

      Their events were the assembly and disassembly of their M-4 carbines and M240B machine guns, construction of an OE-254 antenna, the preventative maintenance checks and services of their tracked vehicle, a short field exercise with pre-combat checks and inspections and setting up a command post tent on the back of the truck along with their advanced field artillery tactical data system. The last event included four regular fire missions and one emergency. The events were graded on time and accuracy.

      For the FDC, proficiency in a team’s crew tasks was the key to winning, said Capt. Daniel Faughnan, battalion fire direction officer.

      There were also 18 Howitzer gun sections who competed in their respective version of the event.

      The gun sections’ competitive events involved weapons assembly and disassembly, including the M-4 carbine, Mk 19 grenade launcher and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun, as well as the assembly and disassembly of the breech of their Paladin. Their field exercise activities included emplacing their gun at the firing point and conducting four regular fire missions and one emergency.

      The gun crew competition also proved to be very close.

     “I think what put us over was the ruck march,” said Staff Sgt. German Ramirez, section chief of Cobra 13, the crew that won the Top Gun portion of the competition. “We came in at 2 hours and 40 minutes, and the next closest one was 2 hours and 50 minutes.”

      Winning the competition was a big deal for the gun section.

      “It’s a big boost of confidence,” Ramirez said. “We put in a lot of hard work and a lot of time into trying to win Top Gun and it showed up at the end with us winning.”

      The winners received an Army commendation medal and a red muzzle cover signifying them as the Top Gun in the battalion for the gun crew, with the FDC section receiving a red guidon to represent their achievement.