News: U.S. and Iraqi Soldiers Take Part in Combined Mortar Training
Story by Spc. Anthony Jones
DIYALA, Iraq — In the open desert north of Forward Operating Base Grizzly, Iraqi and U.S. soldiers gathered together to hone their mortar skills, Dec. 3.
U.S. Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division conducted the training where they instructed their counterparts from the 19th Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division on the operation of the 81mm mortar system.
"Today has been the 'live fire' culmination of three months of hard training with our counterparts," said Lt. Col. Chuck Hodges, commander, 1/23 Inf. "Every single day we need to find a way to make our Iraqi partners better and enable their skill sets and today is an attempt by us to help them train and be more competent and able to protect and defend Iraq."
According to 1st Lt. Michael Oh, mortar platoon leader, 1/23 Inf. the program was created at the request of the Iraqi army.
"We began at square one where we had to explain what a mortar system is and what the components are," said 1st Lt. Oh. "We had some difficulty because their mortar systems are quite different from ours, but a mortar system is a mortar system and the concepts are still the same and we were able to train them on their systems."
The training took place at Iraqi bases throughout the 19th Brigade's area of operations. For the live fire training the U.S. Soldier partnered with the battalions of the 19th Brigade brought their counterparts to a range near Forward Operating Base Grizzly.
"I'm very impressed both the professionalism and competency of the 19th Brigade," said Lt. Col. Hodges. "They are very motivated and every single day we see them demonstrate their technical and tactical skill, really providing for the security of the Iraqi people.
More than 30 Iraqi army soldiers used two U.S. 81mm mortar systems during the live fire training. At each mortar system, U.S. Soldiers would observe and advise the Iraqi three-man gun crews on aiming, loading of rounds and proper firing procedures.
The U.S. standard operation of the mortar system includes command of "hang it" after the command is given the ammo bearer, using two hands, places the round over the mortar cannon and on the command of "fire" releases the round ensuring his hands do not cross over the cannon and potentially in the path of the outgoing round.
"Each IA soldier gets to fire two rounds and each gun team is made of three people. Every time the first soldier fires his two rounds he becomes the next position, the assistant gunner becomes the gunner and the gunner becomes the ammo bearer and so on," said 1st Lt. Oh.
The targets for the mortar crews were two junk cars and an earthen mound approximately 1,400 meters away from where the mortar systems were set up. Each mortar crew had to sight the target and were congratulated on every direct hit.
"Every single day our mission is to go out and find ways to make our Iraqi partners better whether its mortar training, medical training or M-16 training. What ever it may be every single day our mission is to make them better and make sure they have the skill sets necessary to protect the people of Iraq," said Lt. Col. Hodges. "I am very pleased with what I've seen today and very pleased over all with the competency of the Iraqi Army."