News: The sound of artillery: Infantryman fills important position in cannon crew
Story by Sgt. Kissta DiGregorio
RAMADI, Iraq – The stopwatch starts keeping time as Spc. Erik Holmes makes a lap around the area, securing the site. After taking a knee in the gravel, he pulls out his compass to check his azimuth, then stretches out a guide strap to ensure the Humvee and the howitzer it is towing, will be on-target. After ensuring the area is secure and safe for the rest of the cannon crew, he calls in the big guns.
Holmes, assigned to A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, is the advanced party for his crew, but he is not an artilleryman by trade like the other members of his team; he is an infantryman filling this important position.
Originally from Cobleskill, N.Y., Holmes attended infantry one-station unit training and airborne school at Fort Benning, Ga., before joining the Falcon Brigade in April. Due to a shortage of cannon crew members, instead of reporting to one of the Brigade’s infantry battalions, he was sent to the 2-319th AFAR “Black Falcons”.
“It’s needs of the Army,” Holmes said about being thrust into the artillery world.
Almost immediately after joining the unit, Holmes and his fellow paratroopers deployed to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn, which didn’t leave much time for training. “When I first got [to the unit] I was pretty lost in the sauce,” he laughed, but being quizzed by his peers and section chief on a regular basis increased his knowledge of the job.
However, in true paratrooper fashion, A Battery isn’t letting their deployment get in the way of training events. On top of being Camp Ramadi’s quick reaction force, A Battery conducted cannon crew member recertification, July 31. This was Holmes’ first certification.
Some of his job requirements are covered in both artillery and infantry training. While being timed, he had to first secure the area. “That’s mainly my job as an infantryman,” he said, “recon'ing an area and making sure that it’s secure so that everyone can come in safely.”
He then had to quickly determine the correct direction for the howitzer to be towed in. He marked this spot by staking a guide strap into the hard ground with a sledgehammer. This strap and the “candy cane” striped poles securing it, make it easier for the Humvee driver to get the gun into position, and quicker for the crew to lock onto a target once it is unloaded.
Sgt. 1st Class Franklin White, a Black Falcon master gunner and native of Greensboro, N.C., grades each certification. White said, “The gunnery sergeant takes the advanced party with him [to the area] before the guns get there. The AP secures the area and calls the guns in.”
As the rest of the crew hurriedly put the howitzer into operation, Holmes ran 360 degrees around it, hammering in four more stakes, which act as guides for the gunner when moving the cannon into position.
“There’s a lot of yelling, there’s a lot of fast paced motions,” he said. “It seems hectic but we have a pretty good order.”
Although he only trained for a week for his initial certification, his peers and supervisors recognize the effort he has put into his training and the amount he has improved since he reported to the unit not long ago.
“I told him to soak it up like a sponge when he first got to the unit and he’s doing just that,” said his section chief, Staff Sgt. Samuel Feldman. A native of Mount Clemens, Mich., Feldman added that Holmes doesn’t stand out as anything other than an artilleryman during the training.
“He fits right in with this crew and he makes the team that much stronger.”
This work, The sound of artillery: Infantryman fills important position in cannon crew, by SSG Kissta DiGregorio, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.