KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The sun is high above and its heat is beating down on an M119A2 howitzer and its nine-man team at Camp Clark, Afghanistan.
As a radio squawks aloud, all nine men repeat the words they wait to hear day-in and day-out.
“Living the dream boys,” says Spc. Taylor Barnes, the gunner for the M119A2 Howitzer.
Even though it is a training mission to help qualify forward observers, to the men behind the artillery gun it makes no difference.
“I just really enjoy shooting extremely large guns.” said Barnes.
Barnes decided to serve his country for many reasons.
“I wanted to be a part of something much bigger then myself,” said Barnes. “I felt the need to serve and the thought was always in the back of my mind.”
In 2010, Barnes selflessly decided to leave behind college and do what he felt was right.
Barnes was in college majoring in natural resources conservation. However, after spending three years in college, Barnes put that on hold and went to see a recruiter.
“I have to admit,” said Barnes. “It was my grandfather serving, as well as other family members, that put the idea of serving in my head to begin with.”
“It’s like environmental studies,” said Barnes. “I absolutely love the outdoors.”
Barnes grew up living by the lake with his mother, father and younger sister.
“I spend all my time outdoors,” said Barnes. “Fishing and hunting - that’s how I intend to spend my time when I get to go back home.”
Despite his love for what he chose to go to college for, Barnes enlisted and left home so he could do his part on the war on terrorism.
“I knew within days of talking with the recruiter that I would enlist,” said Barnes. “I fell in love with the idea of serving as well as the idea of shooting large artillery rounds.”
Barnes is now deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Afghanistan as an M119A2 gunner and M777 howitzer assistant gunner assigned to, Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
After completing basic training and advanced individual training, Barnes was sent to Fort Campbell, Ky., to be a part of the 101st Airborne Division.
“I really like being a part of this division,” said Barnes. “You tell people you’re with the 101st and instant respect follows.”
Barnes said that being a part of such a prestigious unit such as the 101st is an honor.
Over the deafening noises of the first five rounds being fired, the radio calls in for a short break in order for the forward observers to switch out.
Barnes then stands up and offers his seat to another soldier so that he could get some time on the gun, as well.
Within minutes the radio operator calls over the network again with the order to continue fire.
Barnes now takes up the role of ammo handler during the mission.
“Another awesome part of this unit,” Barnes continued, “is being a Rakkasan. I’ve heard nothing but mind-blowing stories of them.”
Barnes continues to describe his happiness of being a Rakkasan, but his voice is silenced over the sound of the guns firing.
He is now running rounds to the gun and loading them into the howitzer.
Barnes’ overall knowledge of his howitzer is but one reason for his superior’s decision to send him to the promotion board next month.
“I’m really close now to reaching my goal of becoming a sergeant,” said Barnes. “But it hasn’t been easy. I worked hard to get to my gunners seat.”
It took Barnes just over two years to become a gunner.
Now with his enlistment coming to an end in just under a year Barnes has a tough choice to make.
“I only need to complete two more semesters to receive my bachelor’s degree,” Barnes said. “But I really like being in the U.S. Army as well.”
Barnes stated that he still has time to consider both possibilities and that it will be a hard choice to make.
“I really miss my family,” he said. “But like I said before, with me having no wife, no kids and no girlfriend. I am living out my dream right now.”