FORT HOOD, Texas – On a grey, misty morning, families and friends of the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment, “First Strike,” 41st Fires Brigade gathered at Trapnell sniper range on Fort Hood, Texas, May 9, to watch a live-fire exercise and learn what the soldiers do on a day-to-day basis.
In attendance were soldiers’ families, students from Manor Middle School, Army recruits from the Harker Heights, Texas, recruiting station and members of American Legion Post 335 from Centerville, Texas.
“It’s just a good opportunity to incorporate our community partners,” said Lt. Col Ken McDaniel, commander, 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment..
Despite the cloudy day and the brief spring shower, the audience was treated to an M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System firing rockets at targets more than nine kilometers away. For most, this was the first time they had ever heard the loud “boom” as the rockets left their pods and flew off into the distance, puffy white smoke trails following in their wake.
The audience received a short, instructional demonstration about the communication that goes on between the battery operations center and the crew of the MLRS prior to rockets firing. The battery operations center must first provide the MLRS crew with coordinates for the target at which point the MLRS can move from its hiding spot and into the firing position.
Many families have only heard about what their soldiers do for the Army and were excited to finally have a chance to see them in action.
“He talks about it all the time, so it’s nice to see it,” said Taylor Hadley about her husband, who is an MLRS crew member for 21st FAR.
Not only did those in attendance get a chance to see the rocket launchers, but they had a chance to interact with the system along with other pieces of equipment. A lucky few, mostly children, had the chance to work the crane controls on the back of a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, which is used for loading and unloading rocket pods.
Army recruits from the local recruiting station received a short course on the proper use of a medical litter and were able to get some “hands-on” training when they strapped a simulated patient in and loaded them into the back of a field litter ambulance.
“It’s a great experience for all of us [Army recruits] to be out here and to see how they [soldiers] actually do their jobs,” said Gerald Mitchell, 26, who is joining the Army to be an infantryman.
A handful of members from American Legion Post 335 made the 120-mile journey from Centerville, Texas, to watch the spectacle. Throughout the years, the American Legion in Centerville has sponsored the battalion by donating items such as toys, baby blankets and turkeys for Thanksgiving.
“It sure has changed a lot,” said Jesse Carrington, a former artilleryman with American Legion Post 335.
The event helped illustrated how the Army has changed over the years for many of the veterans present at the live-fire exercise.
“Just to have them [the Centerville American Legion] come two-and-half hours shows the huge amount of commitment to the country, the Army and this organization,” McDaniel said.