News: Cavalry soldiers help Iraqi Army maximize mortar capabilities
By 2nd Lt. James McGregor
2nd Advise and Assist Brigade Public Affairs 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division-North
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE WARHORSE, Iraq – “Mustang” troopers of the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division-North, combined with Iraqi soldiers from the 5th Iraqi Army Division to conduct mortar registration, fires and observation training at Contingency Operating Base Warhorse, Iraq, Sept. 18.
Company fire support teams from throughout the battalion trained Iraqi mortar men from the 18th Brigade’s Light Battery, and two Iraqi Security Forces platoons of the 5th IA Division, on U.S. Forces’ methods of conducting fire missions.
The training event, termed “Operation Mustang Thunder,” was primarily focused on achieving accuracy with indirect fire, under both day and night conditions.
The munitions used for the training included high explosive rounds, illumination rounds and infrared illumination rounds.
Capt. William Moeller, battalion fire support officer for the Mustangs, said the combined training event was split into two main areas: mortar and observer training.
Among many other subjects, the mortar portion of training included: instruction in mortar survivability, position selection, fire direction center positioning, round handling, the purpose of forward observers, and aim adjustments.
“Training on proper use of indirect fire can greatly enhance the 5th IA’s capability for external security,” explained Moeller. “Mortars can illuminate areas of suspected enemy activity, provide illumination for adjustment of high explosive rounds at night, harass enemy positions and direct friendly troops to attacks or patrol activities.
Illumination rounds can also be used to mark targets for attack with aviation assets, he continued.
Moeller added that this training was the culmination of months of work in southern Diyala province with ISF leaders, which helped to identify areas where training assistance would help build a solid foundation for external security.
The mortar training was especially useful for the IA mortarmen because they have 120mm mortar systems in their division arsenal, said Moeller.
Moeller felt the training the IA received from the mortar platoons helped provide them with an expanded understanding of the capabilities of their own equipment.
“The company fire support teams used this training opportunity to teach the IA maneuver units how this system works and why it is effective,” Moeller added. “This is important because observers are a great asset for the maneuver commander. They can ensure that fire support is thoroughly integrated into the scheme of maneuver.”
Capt. Saddam Mahmud ‘Abbas Sab’ Al Zuhayri, commander of the Light Battery, 18th IA Brigade, from Diyala, has spent 17 years in the IA and explained the importance of the training he and his soldiers received. He said while there are many differences in U.S. and Iraqi mortar equipment and methods, most of the basic fundamental lessons learned are transferable to their own future training and execution.
“We use ranges and train on firing our mortars a lot, but this was the first time for us to see mortars used on vehicles, as we use ours on the ground,” explained Saddam. “We’re just seeing a different way to use these systems, to adjust, and how to use a fire direction center. I will give my soldiers follow-up lectures on what we have learned here because a lot of these lessons are going to be useful to us. I will also expect my sergeants to explain how these systems work and to train … until they understand … how they can be useful when applied to our own training.”
First Lt. Adam Coste, platoon leader with HHC, 1st Bn., 8th Cav. Regt., added his take on how the differences were highlighted and used to advance the training with his platoon and their Iraqi counterparts.
“Iraqis tend to use their mortar systems solely in the application known as ‘direct lay,’ in which they must have eyes on the enemy and witness the impact of the round,” explained Coste. “From there, they will bracket the rounds in on the target.”
In the American system, we can utilize the direct lay method but, more importantly, as witnessed in our live fire, we utilize forward observers to assist with targeting. This allows us to utilize our mortar systems to their fullest potential at longer ranges, he continued.
Coste also added that while the training was highly beneficial to the participating Iraqi soldiers, he believes it was also a positive training experience for his own soldiers.
This was the fifth live fire that our platoon conducted on Warhorse, but it was definitely the most important in the context of our battalion commander’s intent, said Coste. “This is because we were fortunate enough to include a group of 12 Iraqi soldiers … allowing us to build upon a common thread which links both the American Army and the Iraqi army.”
“Having the Iraqis at our live fire added a dimension of cultural interaction as well as better training for my soldiers, as they had to demonstrate mastery of our skills before they could teach the Iraqis, said Coste. “Overall, this was a great training event.”