News: 1-144 FA uses smoke to fight rust
Story by Spc. Zachary Gardner
FORT IRWIN, Calif., -- Three years is a long time. That’s 1,095 days, 26,280 hours and more than 1,576,800 minutes long. It’s an especially long time for an artilleryman to go without firing his cannon.
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 144th Field Artillery Regiment, California National Guard conducted their second live-fire exercise, since their deployment to Kosovo in 2008, at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Aug. 6-7.
“Field artillery is a very dangerous job,” said Sgt. First Class Patrick Torres, a platoon sergeant with the 1-144 FA. “Not only can a mistake get you killed but using the wrong data will get the troops in front of you killed. It’s not just point and pull the trigger. You have to know what you’re doing.”
In recent years, the military’s artillery has not been utilized to the same extent as it was in previous conflicts. But, with the Army’s training focus changing to hybrid threat operations, artillery is reasserting itself as a major player on the battlefield.
“We have the most underused equipment in the military,” said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Cordero, a platoon sergeant with the 1-144 FA. “Put us to use and you’ll see how combat effective we are. We can shoot anywhere within 25 miles. For not having fired in the past three year, because of our deployment, we are still very accurate. We’ve had to chip off some of the rust but our training is still there. Any of the problems we’ve had has been because the equipment hasn’t been used in so long.”
The value of artillery on the modern battlefield is often understated. Artillery often has the ability to support troops on the ground where air support is not available or safe. The 1-144 FA and the 1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry, Nevada National Guard are attached to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. This allows the regiment to deploy as a brigade combat team level unit.
“It’s a thrill. You feel a lot of power, especially the first time you fire,” said Torres. “If you fire a big charge, like a seven or eight, you will get the full effect for sure.”
“When you fire a round downrange and land steel on steel from 20 miles away, and you’re dead on, it’s a good feeling,” said Torres.
Even though the 1-144 FA will not be firing again for another five to six months the lessons learned from their live fire exercises will provide them with the tools needed for them to regain their title as “King of Battle.”
“We can go toe to toe with any artillery unit… any military out there, even though we do it one weekend a month,” said Torres.