Iron Thunder soldiers run equipment through testing gamut

2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division
Story by Sgt. Sean Harriman

Date: 12.03.2012
Posted: 12.04.2012 12:03
News ID: 98721
Iron Thunder soldiers run equipment through testing gamut

YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. -Throughout the month of October and into November, artillery soldiers of Battery A, 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, were hard at work at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., running a potential vehicle upgrade, the M109 Paladin Integrated Management, through its paces.

The M109 Paladin self-propelled Howitzer, first produced in 1963 and improved upon numerous times over the past 40 years, is currently slated for a comprehensive overhaul. The M109 PIM upgrade shares many common components of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, allowing for more commonality with other Army vehicle systems and maximizing production savings, parts inventory and maintenance personnel while avoiding component obsolescence. The PIM modernization effort is a significant upgrade of the M109A6 Paladin which includes buying back Space, Weight, and Power - Cooling (SWaP-C). While the Self-Propelled Howitzer’s cannon will remain unchanged the PIM will sport a brand new chassis, engine, transmission, suspension, steering system, to go along with an upgraded electric ramming system.

Maj. Peter Sittenauer, 4-27 FA’s executive officer, said the Army requested the Iron Thunder battalion specifically.

“We were requested partly because of our working relationship with the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, but also because of our high level of proficiency; we conduct qualifications twice a year,” Sittenauer said. “The Army realized that we are already familiar with giving detailed feedback during the Army’s NIE.”

The Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, is a semi-annual event that equips Soldiers with state-of-the-art networks and technologies and gives them an opportunity to provide valuable feedback about networks and equipment in an operational setting.

While the bulk of the 2nd BCT, 1st AD, was taking part in NIE 13.1, the soldiers of Battery A, 4-27 FA, were hard at work on the Limited User Test (LUT) for the PIM.

The purpose of the Paladin PIM LUT was to evaluate operational capability and reliability of the platform, proving the suitability, effectiveness and survivability of the platform with soldiers manning the system for the first time. Additionally, the Army completed the PIM Reliability, Availability, and Maintainability (RAM) Growth Curve as required prior to the Milestone C Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) decision scheduled to occur in June 2013.

“We shot 947 rounds per gun and did a lot of driving through all different types of terrain,” said Staff Sgt. Gerardo Figueroa, a Battery A section chief.

“We do all types of fire missions that other units don’t, like degraded and night fire,” Figueroa said.

Staff Sgt. Mitchell Brittingham, also a section chief in Battery A, felt very good about the evaluation that took place in Yuma Proving Ground.

“Overall it was great,” Brittingham said. “We were also required to drive at least 59 miles per day during the LUT.”

The soldiers of Battery A, provided daily status reports and maintained operational readiness and situational awareness, to their headquarters, located in the Fort Bliss, Texas, training areas. This type of long distance communication also helped pave the way for future distributed testing during upcoming NIEs.

Whether it is pushing new equipment to its limits, providing detailed feedback that helps to shape the future Army or refining field artillery tactics, techniques and procedures, the soldiers of 4-27 FA are widely considered the top in their field.

First Lt. Gaylon Ryan, fire direction center officer, Battery A, said the reason for the unit’s proficiency is simple: “The soldiers’ ability to learn new tasks combined with the leaders’ ability to lead is what makes this unit as good as it is.”