By Spc. John Crosby
115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
MOSUL, Iraq – The urban terrain of Operation Iraqi Freedom limits the use of large cannons and field artillery units. The days of all out destruction and artillery raining down from the skies seem to be over. But there are still uses for these Soldiers and instances in which destruction with precision accuracy is vital to the U.S. Army's mission success.
The Redleg Soldiers of Howitzer Battery, 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment are one of the few field artillery units executing their area of expertise in Iraq today.
The term "Redleg" comes from a time when Cannons were much simpler and the field artilleryman's uniform was much different. The Army blue uniform for artillerymen had a two-inch red stripe on the trousers and horse artillerymen wore red canvas leggings, distinguishing themselves from other Soldiers.
The Cannons used by Redleg Soldiers were towed by man, horse or mule, providing no protection to the crew operating it. Misfires, muzzle bursts and exploding weapons were not uncommon. Accuracy and reliability were questionable.
Today, the U.S. Army's M109A6 Paladin self-propelled 155mm howitzer is a tracked vehicle that can reach out and touch a target accurately from 30 km away.
Howitzer Battery uses several strategically placed Paladins located at Badoush Prison located just outside the northern Ninewa province city of Mosul, to support ground troop movement in the area. They conduct an average of three fire missions a night from the combat outpost there, mostly illumination rounds.
"Our role is to support troops in contact with indirect fire, whether it be with 155mm high explosive rounds, Excalibur (guided munitions) or illumination rounds," said Howitzer Battery Fire Directions Chief, Staff Sgt. Gustavo Martinez.
"We can use guided munitions to support any task or mission and pinpoint areas or buildings," Martinez continued. "We use illumination rounds to light up an area at night to limit or reveal enemy movement."
The Paladin is operated by a four man crew consisting of a driver, gunner, cannoneer and chief of section. Howitzer Battery crews work 24 hour shifts in the Paladins at Badoush, on call to support ground troops in contact. After a 24 hour shift, the crew will take 48 hours off to conduct maintenance, chores and guard duty around the combat outpost.
Paladin Gunner, Spc. James Simpson, of Howitzer Battery said working in such a tight quarters with his fellow teammates can lead to skirmishes at times but nothing to serious. His crew works together fluidly.
"You get to know your section and work together really well," said Simpson.
Still, such a work schedule can lead to boredom. The crews of Howitzer Battery conduct training between fire missions to keep busy.
"We get a lot of training done, more than we did back in Fort Hood," said Chief of Section, Staff Sgt. Freddy Perdue of Howitzer Battery. "You gotta do something while we're all in there together for 24 hours straight. But we enjoy our jobs helping the people out there, especially the maneuver forces."
Perdue said he enjoys doing what he was trained to do. While many Redlegs are taking on the role of a foot soldier in Iraq today, Perdue and Howitzer Battery are carrying on the Redleg legacy.
"Being in the war we are fighting now we can adapt to anything," said Martinez. "A lot of the guys in our battery are doing infantry tactics and things of that nature. As far as the field artillery guys that are actually doing the field artillery mission, it's important. You never know. There could be a patrol out there that comes into direct contact with a large group of insurgents and we are here to help by providing indirect fire in a matter of minutes.
|Date Posted:||04.05.2008 19:02|
This work, King of Battle still reigns in modern warfare: Redleg Soldiers conduct fire missions in Iraq, by John Crosby, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.