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    U.S., Iraqi artillerymen send live shells downrange

    U.S., Iraqi artillerymen send live shells downrange

    Photo By Sgt. Mike MacLeod | Two Paratroopers with 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 1st...... read more read more

    AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq — Speaking the common language of "gun talk," U.S. and Iraqi artillerymen worked together to certify American howitzers with live rounds, Feb. 21, for an upcoming partnered training operation.

    Iraqi mortarmen with 7th Iraqi Division cross-trained on 105 mm howitzers — considered a light though lethal cannon — with artillerymen of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist), as the Americans fine-tuned guns that will play a part in a combined airborne and air assault training exercise this spring, according to Lt. Col. Jose Thompson, the 3rd Battalion commander.

    "We are partnered with the 27th IA Brigade, which covers from Haditha all the way down to Hit," said Thompson. "This is the start of a training relationship between our artillery platoon and their mortar battery."

    At some point in the future, the Iraqi Army will redevelop an artillery capability that currently only resides in their mortars, said Thompson.

    Capt. Sherief Butler, commander of the artillery battery, said that since the Iraqis were mortarmen by trade, they understood the indirect fire concepts used on the howitzers.

    "Once they realized that the same fundamentals for shooting are there, they were able to get a common ground and build off of that," he said.

    "They understand deflection and quadrant," said Sgt. 1st Class George Martinez, the platoon sergeant responsible for training U.S. gunners. Deflection and quadrant are measures of horizontal and vertical aiming, the basis of what they call "gunner's talk," he said.

    "We have a foundation, so they could cross-train on our systems and be very successful at it, just as our guys could cross-train on their mortars and be very successful at it. We have a common language," said Martinez, who has deployed twice each to Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Most importantly, the Iraqi mortarmen know what all artillerymen know: there is no "good enough" when talking artillery, he said. There can be no tolerance for any deviation from the standard because the slightest mistake can kill the wrong people downrange.

    Hussam Abd Al Jabber, a gunner with 27th Iraqi Army Brigade, agreed. Originally from Basra, Hussam has been a mortarman for one year.

    "I like firing the gun, but it is a very serious task," he said.

    During two days of training, the partnered forces fired more than 120 rounds at a desert range on the periphery of Al Asad Air Base.

    Firing alongside Hussam was Pfc. Robert St. Clair, the number one man on the gun team, responsible for opening and closing the breech. According to St. Clair, the team fired more than 9,000 rounds during the six months immediately prior to deploying to Iraq and set a record of 2,000 rounds fired in only four days at the Joint Readiness Training Center.

    Prior to deployment, the leaders of 1/82 AAB decided to train up most of the artillery battalion as a "maneuver" unit since the Iraq conflict was already at the point where infantry and room-clearing skills were more needed than artillery.

    They left a sole artillery platoon, which ironically, will provide not only the seed for a future Iraqi artillery section, but the platoon is actually the foundation to build the battalion back up again into an artillery battalion, said Martinez.

    "Advise and assist is new for us," said Martinez. "It's a great opportunity for us to train our counterparts. It's also great training for us for any future deployments to Afghanistan. Artillery is a big deal in Afghanistan."

    The brigade of advise-and-assist paratroopers are responsible for all of Al Anbar, Iraq's largest province. Their yearlong deployment is scheduled to end August 2010.



    Date Taken: 02.21.2010
    Date Posted: 03.02.2010 06:00
    Story ID: 46027
    Location: AL ASAD AIR BASE, IQ

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