News: Indiana Guard Unit Trains with New Howitzers
CAMP ATTERBURY JOINT MANEUVER TRAINING CENTER, Ind. - The cannons faced the western horizon. The Howitzers numbered 12 in the gunline; three gun batteries, four Howitzers each sat idle in the field with their respective crews milling about the guns or checking the fuses on the 155 mm shells. The only break in the silence was the voices of the waiting 2nd-150th Field Artillery Battalion soldiers that carried on the wind of a chill, overcast day.
“Fire mission!” yelled the section chiefs, shattering the silence and ending the waiting.
All along the gunline, the guncrews burst into activity repeating the commands of the section chiefs as they issued fire direction data from a Section Chief Display Unit. Gunners set and repeated the elevation to the chiefs as assistant gunners rotated the guns to the azimuth, the direction of fire.
Many of the guns received the caveat of do not load; their crews stood at the ready once the angle and direction of fire was input into the guns. Other guns continued the mission: placing the shell onto a carriage that swung into position before the breech. Artillerymen shoved the shell into the breach followed by the propellant charge.
Once loaded, the crew backed away from the cannon. The gunner waited in silence, firing lanyard at his hip, back toward the gun, for the final order.
The Indiana Army National Guard’s 2nd-150th Field Artillery Battalion culminated training on new M777A2 155 mm towed Howitzers last week at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind., during a two-day live-fire exercise.
While the M777A2 has been in service for 10 years with the active component Army and Marine Corps, it is new to the Indiana Army National Guard, replacing the aging M198 system, according to Capt. Eric Flores, commander for C Battery 2nd-150th Field Artillery.
“The difference between the M777A2 and the older system is about 8,000 pounds and a ton of technology. It’s lighter and relies primarily on GPS [for orientation and positioning],” said Flores. “It can find itself and lay itself.”
In addition to the GPS, the M777A2 uses wireless data communications from the Fire Direction Control to the gunline, said Lt. Col. Patrick Thibodeau, commander of the 2nd-150th Field Artillery. “I never thought I’d see the day that there would be an antenna on a Howitzer,” said Thibodeau.
“This allows us to deploy the battalion in a decentralized manner. It gives the section chiefs more responsibility.”
“Once the gun’s location is validated, the gun knows where it is and its direction in relation to the grid,” said Thibodeau. “It turns what was once a 30-minute process into a three-minute process to accept fire missions,” said Thibodeau.
“It’s a more accurate piece,” said Flores. “It’s the reason we’ve gone from six guns to four [per battery]. We can have greater effects on target with fewer weapons and fewer rounds.”
The training encompassed a 10-day period where the artillerymen first learned how to maintain the new system. “Trainers here also had one of the weapons completely broken down so the soldiers could see the howitzer at its most basic level,” Flores said.
“A soldier likes to learn something new. They’re embracing the new technology and in 10 short days, they’ve learned a lot,” said Flores. “The priority was to get them shooting, getting their gun drills and the process down.”
The gunner turned, pulling the lanyard. A sharp explosion split the air. For a brief second, the 155 mm shell can be seen as it leaves the cannon on its trajectory towards the impact area. Smoke erupts from the muzzle of the howitzer and drifts lazily across the field in large black clouds, casting a shadow until it dissipates on the wind. Further down the gunline, another howitzer echoes the first gun, creating a cacophonous symphony. In the distance, explosions can be heard announcing the rounds arrival as a fleeting monument to the artillerymen’s skills.
Date Posted:11.10.2010 14:59
Location:CAMP ATTERBURY, IN, US
- PRT Uruzgan: Preparing for a different deployment
- Sailor to sing national anthem at Reds game
- For PRT, medical training focuses on transition
- 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry Regiment conducts Annual Training at Atterbury-Muscatatuck