SALINA, Kan. — As helicopters
and fixed-wing gunships roamed the skies and U.S. Special Operations troops
maneuvered in front of them, Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery
Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, rained shells
into a nearby impact area with a series of complicated firing missions June 13
The “First Lightning”
battalion supported the joint exercise near Salina at the Great Plains Joint
Readiness Training Center. The Soldiers’ main role was to help Air Force joint tactical
air controllers train in a realistic environment using live ammunition. JTACs
are responsible for communicating with both land- and airbased indirect fire
“Our role is assisting
(Joint Special Operations Command) so that they get the fire support that they
need,” said Sgt. James Key, a crew chief with Btry. A, 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt.
and a Charlotte, North Carolina, native. “Everybody on my crew has done really
Key, whose M109A6 Paladin Howitzer
is called “Apollo,” added that some of the firing missions required kept him and
his crew on their toes.
“It’s not just the normal ‘fire
when ready’ or ‘one time on target’ – it’s multiple times on targets or ‘at my
command’ or by ‘piece by round,”’ he said, naming some more difficult fire
missions. “It’s good to be able to vary up the method of fire that’s coming
down to the gun line.”
In addition to the guns on the
line, the battalion had a fire direction cell in place to coordinate missions.
“Along with my (fire
direction noncommissioned officer), I compute firing data that gets sent to the
Paladins,” said 2nd Lt. Paul Dyer, fire direction officer with Btry. A, 1st
Bn., 7th FA Regt., and a Truckee, California, native. “It helps us meet the
required accurate and predictive fires and makes sure that we are able to accurately
engage the targets that the observers send us.”
With more gunnery tables on
the horizon for the battalion, Btry. A’s commander said his Soldiers’
participation in this exercise is a good opportunity in which to get more work.
“This is a golden
opportunity to exercise our systems and make sure that we are maintaining standards
on the gun line and (fire direction center),” Capt. Jonathan Damalouji said.
“Today, for example, we did a simultaneous mission — that’s essentially the
entire gun line shooting two different targets at the same time. It’s been really
beneficial training so far.”