News: Spartan Steel masters the basics to succeed at JRTC
Story by Sgt. Eric-James Estrada
FORT POLK, La. – Hard work and dedication always leads to mission success and for the paratroopers of Spartan Steel, that’s exactly what they achieved after completing an intense 12-day rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center April 26, 2014.
Preparation and dedication were two key factors that helped propel the Paratroopers of 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division to succeed and prove to the rest of the Spartan Brigade that they are more than capable to provide fire support no matter the situation.
“I think the key was the preparation before we came here,” said Maj. Jeffrey Munn, the executive officer for 2-377th PFAR. “We certified sections and really prepared to do those [advanced missions] so when we got here we weren’t worried about just doing the basic tasks.”
Prior to JRTC, the Spartan Steel battalion spent 11 days in the field conducting live fire drills with intense focus on getting certified and performing basic level field artillery tasks in accordance with their occupational standards.
“That’s what helped us do well; the basic core competencies training back at home station,” said Munn.
And it all paid off in the end. Even before Spartan Steel had executed an eighth of its JRTC rotation, it had either met or exceeded the six-minute standard for steel on target during counter-battery fire missions and continued to do so for the rest of the 12-day rotation.
Though the battalion as a whole performed exceptionally well, Bravo Battery’s overall performance was highlighted as above standard when it came to executing the basics.
“We got after [the] troop leading procedures,” said Munn. “Especially Bravo Battery, they were all over troop leading procedures.”
An adage often heard in combat units of the U.S. Army is “train as you fight.” For Spc. Mark Hinton, a cannon crewmember in Bravo Battery, 2-377 PFAR, learning to fight as you train is exactly what he learned, crediting the intense training back in Alaska prior to deploying to JRTC.
“It was exactly how we trained. […] I think it prepared us pretty well for emplacing the gun, running crew drills and firing,” said Hinton. “Knowing that if I ever deploy with this unit, it makes me feel pretty good.”
While at JRTC, new lessons were also learned by Spartan Steel, including how to integrate an additional battery with an entirely different weapons system.
“We’re scheduled to [transition] into a ‘composite fire battalion’ in October. This is key training for us to understand that system,” said Munn.
The system in question is a mixture of two M119 105mm Howitzer Batteries (six guns in each battery) and a M777 155mm Howitzer Battery, which make up a composite fire battalion. As these two artillery systems are integrated, the battalion’s target acquisition systems will also be updated with the addition of the Q53 Radar that will help make it easier to acquire and track enemy indirect fire.
“I can honestly say [JRTC] was hard. It was uncomfortable, but I think it was in the best interest for me and for my unit,” said Hinton. Munn also added that, “No matter how well you do, you’re going to learn something because they’re going to keep stressing you until you find a breaking point or fault point in your system.”
JRTC is designed to help a unit train and prepare for whatever type of mission it is getting ready to execute. For the Spartan Brigade, that mission is rapid insertion into any environment at any time as it prepares to take on the role of the Army’s rapid response force in the Asia-Pacific Theater.
Activated in 2005, the Spartan Brigade continues to serve as the Army’s only airborne brigade combat team in the Asia-Pacific region.