News: Kings of battle assists in joint operations
Story by Sgt. Ryan Hohman
COMBAT OUTPOST LITTLE BLUE, Afghanistan – A thunderous roar echoes across the mountains of Afghanistan as artillerymen with 2nd Platoon, B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division provide needed indirect-fire support for their fellow soldiers and Afghan National Army partners with one of the most advanced artillery gun systems in the Army.
In the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province in Afghanistan, an Afghan led operation June 19-22 required some support from the howitzer gun-line out of Combat Outpost Little Blue, Afghanistan.
“Artillery is known as the king of battle,” said Sgt. Paul Hawthorne, who serves as a howitzer section chief with 2nd Platoon. “We have the power to change the tempo of what is going on down there. With one [high explosive] round, we have the ability to put the enemy back on their heels.”
Indirect fire is the process of firing both lethal and nonlethal munitions from a distance to hit predetermined targets or in support of units engaged in direct combat with the enemy.
“We play a huge role with indirect fires for our counterparts,” said Hawthorne. “We are supporting our counterparts with indirect fire by tracking their movements and when they need some artillery, some big boom, they give us a call and we make it happen.”
Hawthorne’s section has the ability to provide a wide range of support by firing different types of rounds out of the howitzer.
“We have a lot of different munitions to really help bring the fight to the enemy,” said Hawthorne. “We have smoke to help distract the enemy or help friendly forces to pull back, [high explosive rounds] to make a big boom, illumination rounds to provide light at night.”
This choice of munitions allows the section to fire with more accuracy, which allows for less collateral damage.
The artillerymen of 2nd Platoon have to be ready at a moment’s notice to provide the much-needed support to their fellow Soldiers and partners outside the wire by firing upwards of 14 rounds during one fire mission.
“A lot of our job is hurry up and wait. As we wait for fire missions to come down,” said Hawthorne. “We have to be ready at a moment’s notice to put rounds down range.”
While conducting the four-day mission the section was on stand-by both day and night, ready at a moment’s noticed to perform a fire mission. This requires them to sleep outside near their gun.
“On our down time we run through dry missions, so we are able to practice on our battle rhythm,” said Hawthorne. “Artillery is a perishable skill so you always have to keep it fresh.”
As a section chief, Hawthorne, is responsible for ensuring his nine soldiers perform as a well-oiled machine ready to provide immediate support to soldiers.
“I have been working with these guys for the past two years,” said Hawthorne. “I was able to build up a good relationship with them, and we have a good work ethic and have become pretty tight.”
Hawthorne continues to train his soldiers relentlessly so they can maintain both proficiency and a strong relationship within his section.
“We work at a lot of crew drills so that everyone knows what they need to do,” said Hawthorne. “Each individual has their own part, and if one falls, everything can crumble over.”
Artillerymen have to stay focused on their job at all times and be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
“To be a good artilleryman you have to be able to pay attention to detail and have mental discipline,” said Hawthorne. “During a fire mission there are a lot of moving pieces and everyone has to be focused on their actual job.”
The training has allowed the section to be fully prepared to provide instant support to their fellow soldiers and partners while deployed to Afghanistan.
“The training we did before we got here has made me more comfortable working with my peers, and on the gun,” said Pfc. Andrew Peters, who serves as an artilleryman with 2nd Platoon. “It has helped me build more confidence within myself to know I was able to do my job more proficiently.”
By gaining confidence in both their jobs and themselves, the section has become a brotherhood.
“This whole time we have been training the last two years we have grown stronger and bonded like brothers,” said Peters. “Like any brotherhood there can be nit-picking and some disagreements, but we all know there is a bigger picture out here and we come together as a team to complete the mission.”
The brotherhood has proven to be an essential element in allowing the section to be effective at putting rounds down range despite the high temperature and long days.
“Our mission out here feels like we are the watchful protectors of our infantry guys out there on the frontlines,” said Peters. “It is a good feeling to know that if they need us out there they can call at anytime [and know] that we will be there any second for them.”