News: Red Lions prepared to train ANA partners on D30 howitzers
Story by Sgt. Christopher McCullough
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan - It hasn't been a full month yet, but already the soldiers of 1st Battalion 37th Field Artillery, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., are preparing themselves for what promises to be a busy deployment.
The 'Red Lions' of 1-37 FA deployed to Afghanistan last month after their brigade headquarters needed their skills as expert artillerymen to train the Afghan National Army in southern Afghanistan, notably the 4th Kandak, 1st Brigade, 205th Corps. The 1-205 recently completed basic indirect fire training with an artillery mobile training team.
“What they’ve been trained on somewhat, prior to this MTT, was how to use their D30’s in [what is called] direct fire mode," said 1-37 FA's Commander, Lt. Col. Rory Crooks. "[In that mode] it’s like a big recoilless rifle, except it has recoil."
In view of that, the Red Lions expect to train their ANA partners on advanced indirect fire techniques which will enable the ANA to provide lethal and accurate indirect fire support. The ability of the ANA to use their D30 howitzers is one of the keys to transitioning security responsibility over to the Afghans.
"We’re going to…train them as a battery how to employ their systems indirectly," said Crooks. "The goal is that we get them firing indirect [fire] safely in support of their ANA elements."
Training the Afghans to operate their D30 howitzers in indirect fire mode will be no easy task, as their guns are different from what U.S. forces use. However, Maj. Matthew Dennis, 1-37 FA's executive officer, explains that basic howitzer skills are the same no matter what the gun system may be. To that effect, the Red Lions have spent ample time training with their M777 howitzer in degraded mode which has prepared them to train the ANA on the D30 howitzers. In degraded mode, the mechanics of the M777 howitzer are slightly different, Dennis said, however the fundamentals are virtually identical.
"There are some changes in how a breach operates or where particular levers are located, but the actual fundamentals of howitzer crew drill and gunnery are the same," said Dennis. "So as far as transferring our core competencies from us to the Afghans, it should not be much of a challenge beyond the language barrier."
The Red Lions prepared themselves to deal with this challenge by instructing their soldiers how to train their ANA partners through interpreters.
"Most of our guys have not done that before… [but] we’re going to get them prepared for that mission the best we can and we’ll work through it," Dennis stated.
Crooks spoke optimistically about their mission and the challenges it presents to his soldiers.
"I really think that our soldiers that do that mission of training [the ANA] on the D30’s, they’ll come out much better themselves professionally in their fundamental understanding of…any indirect fire howitzer weapon system," said Crooks. "I think it will just ground them that much better and set them up for their future careers to be able to accomplish this task. We’re pretty excited about it."