News: "3-29 FA's A-Team Protects Anaconda"
Story by 2nd Lt. Anthony Buchanan
by 2nd Lt. Anthony D. Buchanan
BALAD, Iraq – Military operating bases throughout Iraq constantly have to be aware of indirect fire attacks from insurgents outside the wire, but Logistical Support Area Anaconda here has its own which is relentlessly monitoring and preparing to thwart anything insurgents have to offer – the A-Team.
Assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Task Force Band of Brothers, the A-Team is comprised of National Guard, Regular Army Soldiers and an Airman charged with protecting LSA Anaconda by monitoring their systems and sending vital data to mortar teams and M109A6 Paladins to return fire upon enemy locations whenever an indirect fire attack occurs.
"What we do here is basically protect the LSA against indirect fire attacks," said Sgt. Giberto Rivera, an assistant fire support non commissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, Task Force Pacesetter and a Colorado Springs, Colo., native.
The unique blend of fire support personnel has fired more that 2,100 120mm and 155mm rounds during the task force's deployment. They attribute their success to bringing a plethora of skills to the table.
"This is the most diverse team I've worked with," said Sgt. 1st Class Alberto Vasquez, the battalion's Chief Fire Control NCO and a Colorado, Springs, Colo., native. "They're definitely focused on the mission.
"They always come out here with a lot of energy and want to do the right thing, and that's what you want."
Airman 1st Class Brad Hill, Joint Terminal Attack Controller and member of the Air Force's 19th EASOS, has been with the A-Team for about two months. He has become a vital contributor to the mission of protecting LSA Anaconda from the air.
"I basically control all of the airplanes and call in air strikes," said Hill, a Tulsa, Okla., native. "I'm stationed at Fort Riley, so I've been working with Army guys for the majority of my career.
"This group here is really professional. It's a real good joint effort."
The Soldiers were very complimentary of their Air Force counterpart's skill. It has given the team a more well-rounded skill set.
"It's been amazing working with the Air Force seeing how much air they control, the assets they have and to see what the can do," Vasquez said. "Just working with the Air Force has opened my eyes a lot as far as fire support."
The National Guardsmen on the A-Team are Lincoln, Neb., natives Spc. Jake Whitaker and Sgt. Matthew Carper from Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 67th Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, Nebraska National Guard and York, Penn., native Chief Warrant Officer James Woof from Battery F, 109th FA, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard. This has been a new experience for them also.
"This is the first time I've ever seen mortars used at this level," said Woof, the assistant counter fire officer who has 36 years of experience in the military, 20 of those in field artillery.
Using mortars to provide counter fire at the battalion level isn't the only new thing for the Guard Soldiers. They are also fresh to some of the newer, more advance field artillery computer systems.
"We just recently started this," said Whitaker, a fire support specialist referring to the new computer systems they had to learn to use. "Originally, we were a cavalry unit. [The active Army guys] have been using there equipment for about five years now.
"We've been using it for a few months. Now, we're all cross trained at all of the positions."
"Where someone is working today, I worked there yesterday," added Carper, an assistant fire support NCO. "The chief even fills in if we are low on manpower."
Because the team is a mixture of military occupation specialties, units and branches of service, everyone is on a different deployment timeline. Some will leave, others will stay and more will come. Those who stay behind have vowed to pass on their knowledge to their replacements and to maintain the standard as LSA Anaconda's protectors, the A-Team.