News: Trained and ready
Story by Sgt. Thomas Duval
FORT KNOX, Ky. - Winston Churchill, who is widely recognized as one of the best wartime commanders of the 20th century, proclaimed, “Renown awaits the commander who first restores artillery to its prime importance on the battlefield.“
One Fort Knox-based artillery unit and its command team are preparing and training its soldiers to answer the indirect challenge spoken by Churchill nearly 100 years ago and once again bring renown to the field artillery regiments throughout the Army.
That team of elite soldiers is the 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.
Over the past several months, Lt. Col. Henry McNeilly, commander of the 1st Bn., 6th FA, and his adviser and senior noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. Aaron White, have been preparing for this challenge by combining more than 40 years of Army experience to develop, plan, coordinate and execute realistic and high-intensity combat training.
“Field Artillery is all about standards and the more we train the better prepared we are,” White said. “Our biggest push is to make our soldiers the best soldiers wherever they go … we want them to excel and be the best at what they do.”
The first phase of ensuring their soldiers were the best of the best began when McNeilly assumed command of the unit in March of 2012.
Coming off of a rigorous reset process the soldiers of the 1st Bn., 6th FA began building their foundation with squad and individual soldier training- tasks McNeilly said are vital when operating in an Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
“When you’re in an infantry brigade combat team you have to be able to do what infantrymen do … if not better,” he added.
From there the "Centaurs" moved on to gunneries and platoon size Howitzer live-fire exercises. Unlike everyday Infantry training, the howitzer live-fires required multi-echelon coordination and flawless execution to be truly successful.
“In my humble opinion I think it is that dual capability of bringing synchronization and effects of indirect fires, and its ability as a multi-functional battalion capable of owning areas of operations that creates a great capability for the commander,” said McNeilly.
Earlier this year, McNeilly and his fellow Centaurs carried the momentum from their successful synchronization and live fires into the brigade’s rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La. While at JRTC, senior leaders acknowledged and took note of their high level of success.
“Our Centaurs earned the title of the “best,” firing platoons, batteries and battalion the JRTC Fox Team has seen in over a year and half,” said McNeilly. “That is quite the distinction since that equates to about 12-14 rotations with other artillery battalions participating.”
Although the rotation at JRTC was the official culminating event before entering the deployable ready status, the unit's training has not slowed down.
The bluegrass artillerymen recently began new equipment training for the M777A2 howitzer- an upgrade to the M777 howitzer that enables the use of precision munitions.
“In the future the introduction of the M777 into the battalion’s arsenal will change the brigade’s ability to affect operations significantly,” said McNeilly.
“We are trained and we are ready,” he said.
Together, McNeilly and his team believe this training combined with their new arsenal will translate to mission success as the 1st Bn., 6th FA prepares to deploy later this year and plans to add another chapter to the Centaurs 200 year history.
In addition he hopes it will further cement the Army artillery’s legacy as the "King of Battle" and restore artillery’s dominance and renown on the battlefield.