News: 'Kings of Battle' increase combat efficiency through mortar training
Story by Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Marines from Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, conducted a live fire exercise using 120mm M327 Towed Rifle mortars, June 25, 2013. This was the first time the battery has fired this particular mortar system.
The M327 is the Marines’ transportable indirect fire support capability and can be easily emplaced, fired, maneuvered and displaced using a four- to five-man crew.
The live fire was part of a two-week course for Marines to learn how to operate the mortar systems. Bravo Battery used three guns to fire 74 of the 120mm mortar rounds. The exercise allowed the Marines to become familiar with the system and understand its capabilities.
“Most of the guys out here have never shot the M327s before, so it’s a new experience for them,” said Sgt. William Horton, gun three section chief with Bravo Battery, 1st Bn., 12th Marines, and a native of Vassar, Mi. “We’re out here to learn the mechanics and advantages of these machines, but we’re trying to have fun with it too.”
The live fire exercise also marked the first time 1st Bn., 12th Marines, fired the mortar systems on Oahu.
“We’ve fired (mortars) before as a battalion on the big island, but this is the first time we get to fire on Oahu,” said Capt. Brennan Simi, commanding officer of Bravo Battery, 1st Bn., 12th Marines, and native of Houston. “We’re excited to be able to shoot these systems and train right here in our own backyard.”
Getting familiar with the M327 would allow the battalion to provide increased combat support using short-range M327 mortar systems along with the M777 howitzer artillery systems.
“The greatest advantage of these systems is its maneuverability,” Horton said. “Unlike the howitzers, the (mortar) systems require fewer Marines, and we can use them for cover and concealment. In a combat zone, an osprey can hold an artillery battalion with three guns and drop them off to provide immediate support fire.”
Before firing, Marines lined up the M327s and aimed them down range to match the azimuth designated for each system. When fired, the impact of the rounds would be the same distance from each other as the mortar systems are from one another.
“We run azimuths to help determine the direction of the mortars,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan Edwards, local security chief with Bravo Battery, 1st Bn., 12th Marines, and a native of Potosi, Mo. “The forward observers send us the coordinates to where they want the rounds to impact, and we match them up. After a few adjustments, what he’s looking at is what I’m looking at.”
Aside from the live fire’s main goal to teach Marines how to operate the M327s, Marines needed to become experts on the firing systems as well.
“I want them to work on basic procedures and leave as experts so they can teach their Marines how the mortar system works,” Brennan said. “Our focus is to ensure each Marine’s overall capabilities when it comes to firing short and medium-range artillery.”
Different fire missions called for a different number of rounds each time and Marines scattered across the firing line to load mortar shells in the loading barrel. After the round was loaded, the section chief called “standby” and the final command, “Fire!”
“Mortarman go to school for five weeks to learn how to operate and fire each mortar system,” Edwards said. “For these guys to come out here and do all of that in seven days is quite an achievement.”