Fire support Soldiers conduct certification
FORT RILEY, Kan.—Pfc. Shane Paulo, a fire support specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, looks through a laser range finder mounted atop an M1200 Knight armored vehicle Sept. 18 at an observation post. Fire support Soldiers are the eyes and ears of the artillery and train to ensure they are prepared to direct accurate fire on the enemy. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire)
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Story by: Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire
2HBCT PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Splash!" several Soldiers cried out at the top of their lungs as an artillery round hits its target at Fort Riley's impact area. The Soldiers saying this are a few of the more than 70 fire support Soldiers – commonly referred to as FISTers – from across 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division who have spent the past several weeks conducting an annual certification training exercise required to effectively call for indirect fire.
"The science and art of this (military occupational specialty) must be trained over and over (for Soldiers) to become lethally proficient," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Aaron Sargent, targeting warrant officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd ABCT. "It is an annual requirement to certify in order to call for fire."
"Following their certification, these forward observers will be expected to work closely with the brigade's field artillery unit: 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, as well as command-and-control at various levels in the brigade.
"It is crucial to have a great working relationship with the field artillery battalion all the way to the battery level," Sargent said.
"There is very much a 'quid pro quo' relationship as the forward observers support the battalion and batteries in combat and they in turn support the forward observers logistically," he added.
Developing a mutual trust and assurance is built during training exercises like the annual certification and those intangibles can play a major role in the field, Sargent said.
"The Soldiers shooting the rounds must be confident that the forward observers are going to make the correct calculations and put the guns on target as accurately as possible in a timely manner – establishing the trust and knowing you can count on the other Soldiers is vital to mission success."
During the certification process, the field artillery batteries must shoot a variety of missions to test their, and the forward observers, abilities for a range of potential situations.
"Each platoon (of field artillery Soldiers) has to meet certain training requirements – low-angle, high-angle, time on target and immediate-suppression missions," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Tracy, joint fires observer and noncommissioned officer, HHC, 2nd ABCT. "Time-on-target is the hardest since there are a lot of moving pieces, and both the observer and the cannon crew have to be on the same page at the same time."
Tracy said forward observers must be proficient in a range of tasks and with a wide array of equipment to complete their mission.
"We have to be able to work with maps and compasses in addition to all of our digital equipment, shooting voice-fire missions, as well as digital-fire missions from our forward observer software to our (Advanced Digital Field Artillery Tactical Data System)," Tracy said.
Sargent added that because of their role as the eyes and ears of the artillery, forward observers have to be prepared to spend long periods of time in the field at a stretch.
"They must be able to work independently for long periods of time as some missions can last for days or even weeks," he said. "Because of the clandestine nature of their work and their frequent placement on or behind enemy lines, the ability to operate with minimal support is of great importance."
More training events are planned for the near future for 2nd ABCT forward observers, including air-to-ground integration with the Air Force's 10th Air Support Operations Squadron at the Smokey Hill Range near Salina, Kan., and situational training exercise lanes at Fort Riley later this year.
By Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire
2nd ABCT Public Affairs