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    New York Artillerymen brave frigid temperatures to train at Fort Dix

    New York Artillerymen brave frigid temperatures to train

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Michael Davis | Soldiers from the New York Army National Guard's 1st Battalion 258th Field Artillery...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    New York National Guard

    By Sgt. Michael Davis
    138th Public Affairs Detachment

    FORT DIX, N.J.- Scathing winds that cut across open, frozen fields turned temperatures in the mid-teens into something that felt closer to zero degrees as 303 Soldiers of the New York Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion 258th Field Artillery conducted dry-fire exercises on Saturday, Jan. 10.

    The exercise in the field was the culmination of months of training and preparation for the annual certification of the battalion’s 16 M119 howitzer crews over the frigid Jan. 9-11 training weekend.

    Seventy fire support Soldiers from the 27th Infantry Brigades maneuver battalions and other units also participated in the training weekend. Training on the Light Counter Mortar Radar and Q-36 counter battery radar system, used to direct fire against enemy mortar and artillery weapons, also took place.

    The cold weather meant the Soldiers had to adapt but they kept training anyway, said Maj, Brendan Gendron the 1-258th’s operations office.

    "Battle rhythms adjusted based on soldier exposure," Gendron explained. "Our ultimate concern is the health and safety of every soldier from the field grades to the gun lines."

    These adjustments and provisions included everything from using alternate oils and lubricants, additional considerations for gun powder and tube temperatures, to wearing cold weather gear, available hot coffee and hot chocolate, and a warming tent.

    Gendron also ensured that each artillery battery followed the 15-30 standard; 15 minutes on the field followed by 30 minutes in the warming tent.

    Over the course of the very cold weekend, the need to rotate Soldiers in and out of warming tents meant there wasn’t enough time to conduct live fire operations, said Lt. Col. Dave Feeley, the battalion commander. The battalion will conduct that training in May, Feeley said.

    The training at Fort Dix, though, set the battalion up for success later, Feeley said.

    "Everything becomes a challenge in this weather, you just have to embrace it," said Sgt. Sean Durst, a Gunner with Battery A.

    In his six years with the 1-258th he’s learned that preparing and rehearsing every step of the certification process in the preceding months is essential for success, and even slight deviations can turn into major disruptions, Durst explained.

    Sgt. Danny Pena, a gunner who has spent five years with Bravo Battery, 1-258th FA, added that not only knowing your role, but knowing the role of everyone on your team is crucial.

    They watch each other in their battery as well as the other batteries on the line, and are ready to help when it's needed, he said.

    "We ensure everything from the smallest tool to the biggest piece of equipment is ready. We do spot checks and eye-on checks, from gun to gun and down the line," Pena said.

    Team building and the ability to anticipate each other's actions and movements is essential to a functional artillery unit, Pena added.

    To gain this unique ability, they spend as much time together as possible. Every drill and annual training they're together from sun-up to sun-down, he emphasized.

    "Sections are always together,” said Pena. “We're like a small family, and that's how we like it."

    While the battalion was able to certify the gun crews on the dry-fire requirement, the severe, cold weather stopped them just short for live firing certification.

    However, the extreme weather provided a valuable opportunity for cold weather training that might not have otherwise been available to them, Gendron said. The battalion was able to have their gun lines and Q36 Radar support fully setup, operational and mission ready in adverse conditions, he said.



    Date Taken: 01.10.2015
    Date Posted: 01.16.2015 10:19
    Story ID: 152158
    Location: FORT DIX , NJ, US 

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