Fort Riley, Kansas

 

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Future is now for field artillery

By Chad L. Simon | 1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS | December 15, 2017

      Looking to the past to predict the future, the Army has tasked its oldest unit to test one of its newest weapons. Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, conducted the first stage of test firing the new the M109A7 Paladin howitzer Dec. 5 through 7 on the expansive ranges of Fort Riley.

     The 1st Bn., 5th FA Regt., is the oldest regular Army unit on active duty, having shot supportive fires as far back as the Revolutionary War when they were commanded by Alexander Hamilton.

     “Hamilton’s Own” recently tested the future of mobile Army artillery. They will continue to fire more rounds as the testing phases continue in early 2018.

      They will then become the first artillery unit to field the new Paladin Integrated Management system in the Army.

     “I think by the Army choosing us to test the equipment means we are setting the standard,” said 1st Lt. Sabina Montgomery, 2nd Platoon leader, Battery B, 1st Bn., 5th FA Regt., 1st ABCT, 1st Inf. Div., “We have exceeded the standard since we started firing. I think they picked the best unit to field this equipment.”

    The more modern M109A7 system looks similar to its pre­decessor, the M109A6, on the outside, but the inside is where the new PIM becomes more le­thal, said Staff Sgt. Eric Doriot, chief of section, Battery B, 1st Bn., 5th FA Regt. 1st ABCT, 1st Inf. Div.

     “They did quite a few up­grades on the inside to accom­modate the crew and to hold more rounds so it is easier to utilize the piece,” Doriot said. “To fire, it is far better than the old system. It weighs a little more so the recoil isn’t as bad. The up armor on them helps dampen the noise so we don’t have the blast overpressure.” Doriot refers to the pressure caused by a shock wave over and above normal atmospheric pressure.

      Another significant upgrade in the new model is the driv­er’s area.

     “The driver’s hull has a new system that allows them to drive daytime or nighttime in various weather (conditions) and it won’t affect them as bad while driving with (night-vision goggles),” Montgomery said. “There are so many upgrades, it is going to a lot better than what we had before.”

     Montgomery values her experience with the older version of PIM, but she is looking forward to the future of the self-propelled, heavily armored artillery system.

     “We can become the subject-matter experts as it develops and grows in the Army,” Montgomery said. “Being on the older equipment for a short amount a time, these are definitely an upgrade and I am excited to see what possibilities we have with them in the future.”

     The Soldiers of Hamilton’s Own worked with the new PIM for approximately a month before first firing the system on Dec. 5. The month of training was needed for the crews to become and proficient with the new equipment.

      “It is crucial, absolutely crucial training,” Doriot said. “You can’t get better by not training. You have to train to get more fluid.”