Fort Riley, Kansas

 

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‘First Lightning’ supports Special Operations, Air Force training near Salina

By Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire | 2ND ABCT PUBLIC AFFAIRS | July 11, 2014

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 to 27.

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 platforms.

“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 well.”

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.” 

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