News: ‘Mustang’ mortarmen display operational readiness
By: Sgt. Quentin Johnson
2nd Advise and Assist Brigade Public Affairs
1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division-North
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE WARHORSE, Iraq – Soldiers assigned to 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, conducted mortar training operations on and near Contingency Operating Base Warhorse, Iraq, July 23.
Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, conducted the training to certify mortar crews and company support personnel deployed in support of Operation New Dawn.
Soldiers conducted the two-day event in three phases: palm grove clearing, mortar registration and mortar firing, said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Spears, from Kingsport, Tenn.
Clearing the groves was a partnered effort between U.S. forces and Iraqi security forces, said 1st Lt. Adam Coste, mortar platoon leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment.
Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, accompanied soldiers from 1st Brigade, 19th Iraqi Army Division, as the units conducted a patrol to clear a 500-square meter area of palm groves to ensure safety of the local population.
Mortar registration, the second phase, provided an opportunity to ensure that all the mortar-supporting computer systems were working, and the mortar itself is aligned and operational, explained Coste, who hails from Ocean City, N.J.
Phase three consisted of firing large numbers of 120mm high-explosive mortar rounds into the palm groves in timed intervals, said Coste.
Spears said firing the rounds shows the capabilities of the mortar teams and U.S. forces.
Those capabilities are dependent on the ability of each mortarman checking the mortar systems, and coordination between the forward observers and higher echelon, added Coste.
“If [mortars] have to be used, we will be proficient,” Coste explained.
Spears, a section sergeant with HHC, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, spoke about proficiency being the pride of mortarmen.
“We pride ourselves on hitting the target with the first round,” said Spears.
Being proficient comes with training, said Coste.
In addition to being an excellent training opportunity for 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, the battalion and brigade fires cells added significantly to the realism, Coste said. The operation had the added benefit of a significant disruption effect on local violent extremists through a show of force, he added.
The mortar firing exercise provided soldiers an opportunity to recertify in their positions, which must be done every six months, explained Coste.
“It was excellent,” said Pvt. Frank Corey, a mortar crewman from Geneva, Ohio, about the exercise.
Deployed for the first time, Corey said he is grateful for the opportunity to use his skills, show the accuracy of a mortar and provide security for soldiers and civilians in the area.
Corey recertified successfully while keeping his position as gunner with HHC – a position he takes seriously, regardless if he is training or conducting combat operations.
“Train as you fight,” said Corey of the exercise. “I love it.”