Soldiers complete mortar gunnery training
Story by: Amanda Kim Stairrett
1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Sweating it out in mortar tracks and taking refuge under a Cottonwood tree between fire missions, "Dreadnaught" mortarmen were in the field July 25 at Fort Riley.
Soldiers with the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division were the first to shoot mortars in a Table 8 gunnery as training got back into full swing across the brigade following its latest deployment.
Mortarmen worked in conjunction with the battalion's fire support specialists, or FISTers, to fire 120mm mortar rounds from their tracks at Fort Riley's Mortar Firing Point 14.
The FISTers were participating in their own Table 6 gunnery.
The training qualified mortars sections and fire support teams – required training for each military occupational specialty – so they were prepared to provide accurate and timely fires in support of the battalion, said Capt. Nick Welch, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander.
The battalion is ready to begin its collective training phase, said Lt. Col. Anthony New, battalion commander. It is absolutely critical the Soldiers focus on their fundamentals after returning from Afghanistan, he added.
While deployed, the companies worked more as a light infantry battalion instead of as a combined arms battalion, New said. Now he has to lead its modernization and transformation back to a combined arms battalion in an armor brigade combat team.
The battalion must do this process as deliberately as possible because officials are still in the process of integrating new personnel into the units, New said. For those new men, integrating during a gunnery means everything from getting them used to firing mortars out of the back of tracks, to living in the field and surviving the soaring temperatures.
The mortarmen and FISTers were first in the field because they, by providing indirect fire, are enablers for the infantry and armor units.
"So they've got to be ready first," New said.
Many of the Soldiers performed light infantry tasks in Afghanistan, and that experience gave them perspective as they settled back into their roles as mortarmen, New said. As with anyone, they respected and appreciated the experience they had, but it was comforting to go back to their primary jobs, he added.
Sgt. James Myers fired mortars in Afghanistan, but not out of the mortar tracks. It was good, effective training getting back into them, he said.
"It keeps us combat-ready and effective," Myers said.