CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, IRAQ
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – By 8:30 a.m., the Iraq sun is already baking the flat landscape of Contingency Operating Base Speicher as six “Duke” soldiers of Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 4th Field Artillery Regiment, 214th Fires Brigade, conduct maintenance on their Q-36 counter mortar radar system.
“The heat alone is rough on our equipment,” said Staff Sgt. Blake Sachs, section sergeant for the Dukes. “Add to that all the dust we get out here and it becomes very important for us to perform maintenance checks on these systems every day to keep them from breaking down.”
The Q-36 counter mortar radar system enables the Dukes to track incoming mortar, artillery and rocket attacks, and alert COB Speicher personnel to danger before the round even detonates.
Maintenance and upkeep are high priorities for the safety of everyone on the COB, said Sachs, who hails from, Kansas City, Mo.
“I think we have done a pretty good job of it,” Sachs said. “We have to work long hours to get it done, but we are keeping the rest of the soldiers here safe and that makes it all worth it.”
Sgt. Anthony Barges, a multiple launch rocket system operations and fire direction specialist, explained that Dukes spend most of their time ensuring their system is in working order and monitoring the Radar from a shelter the soldiers have nicknamed Daisy.
“Complacency cannot be a factor in what we do.” Barges said. “Our mission is to keep COB Speicher safe, and we cannot let anything deter us from that mission.”
While the days are long, the Dukes are motivated by a desire to keep their comrades safe, said Spc. Adrian Montez, a multiple launch rocket system operations and fire direction specialist.
“This job can be pretty boring, because we sit in front of a screen all day waiting for something to happen,” Montez said. “But when you track your first live round coming onto the FOB you start to gain a different perspective. If it wasn’t for us, we wouldn’t know [whether] rounds were incoming or where they came from. It’s a job that you can take pride in because you know that you are looking out for all of your battle buddies.”
The Dukes’ sense of responsibility is compounded by the fact they are deployed to a completely different part of the country than the rest of Battery B, said Sachs.
“One of the biggest benefits and challenges on this deployment is that we are operating on our own,” said Sachs. “I am the battery commander for these guys. I am the first sergeant. It’s a great responsibility for all of us really. To be self-sustained out here has required a lot of discipline from all of us, and I see it as a great accomplishment that we have sustained our mission.”
The greatest challenge, becoming certified on the system, came prior to their December 2010 deployment.
“Back in the rear, they sent me to a warrant officer course designed for an entire year, and they condensed it into a four-month class so we could deploy on time,” said Sachs. “The junior guys, on the other hand, only got a two-week crash course in the system, so we did a lot of hours of training in just a few months before we deployed. We were a bit nervous when we went to get certified on the system but we passed with flying colors.”
Despite the challenges he and his soldiers have faced, Sachs said he feels satisfaction for everything they have accomplished.
“I’ve taken a great deal of pride in this job,” Sachs said. “To know that we have tracked [each] round that has come onto this base with such limited training and experience speaks very highly of my soldiers and all that they have done.”
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This work, Daisy and the Dukes stand watch, by SPC Andrew Ingram, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.