Artillery Soldiers Train at

Camp Williams Live-Fire Exercise

 

By Private Rebecca Hansen

 

Published November 25, 2008

 

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A National Guard Soldier prepares to load a 155 mm artillery round into a Paladin howitzer Nov. 14 at Camp Williams.

Photo by Private Rebecca Hansen

A National Guard Soldier prepares to load a 155 mm artillery

round into a Paladin howitzer Nov. 14 at Camp Williams.

CAMP WILLIAMS, Utah -- “Mission!” the Soldier yells through the loud rumble of the Paladin’s engine. Other crew members load the howitzer with a round and take aim. Distance and direction are verified as a Soldier holding a lanyard anxiously waits for the magic word: “FIRE!”

The 13B Cannon Crewmember and 13F Forward Observer classes for Army Artillery Soldiers were held Nov. 14-16 at Camp Williams to conduct a live-fire exercise in order to qualify them to do their military jobs. 

“Everybody works hard to give the students the best training,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ralph A. Munson, 129th Illinois Regimental Training Institute, 13B30 Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course manager. “The live-fire was just awesome!”

The live-fire is used by the 640th Utah RTI to qualify the 13Bs and the 13Fs for their jobs. The 13B has to fire rounds to become qualified, and the 13F has to direct rounds in on a target in order to become a certified Forward Observer.

A Paladin driver puts the howitzer in place to prepare to fire a round during the artillery exercise at Camp Williams Nov. 14-16.

Photo by Private Rebecca Hansen

A Paladin driver puts the howitzer in place to prepare to fire a

round during the artillery exercise at Camp Williams Nov. 14-16.

A lot more goes into firing these weapons than just “point and shoot.” It starts with the when Forward Observer picks targets in the impact area. Then, depending on what kind of mission they are shooting, they go through a procedure to bring the rounds onto the target.

Next, the FO calls the information in to the Firing Direction Center. Then the FDC takes the information and transposes it into numbers to be sent to the gun line so that the 13B knows where to fire.

When the 13B receives the numbers they get a shell fuze and charge and set off the deflection quadrant in order to get the round to go where they want it to go and do what they want it to do.

This live-fire had very few problems, and the issues that did arise were fixed promptly.

Each M109A6 Paladin howitzer carries a unique name selected by its crew---generally one that involves pain and suffering for the enemy.

Photo by Private Rebecca Hansen

Each M109A6 Paladin howitzer carries a unique name selected by

its crew---generally one that involves pain and suffering for the enemy.

“It went really great. We didn’t have any firing incidents.” said Master Sgt. David M. Nish, 3rd Battalion 640th RTI, Battalion Branch chief and noncommissioned officer in charge. “We did have some issues, but our maintenance support worked magic. Without maintenance support we would have been hurting on the shoot.” 

For this exercise, the 640th RTI invited VIP visitors from the local community to watch. Curtis Hagen and Mark Halliday came from Riverton High’s administration office, Brad Pitcher and Fred Christiansen visited from Salt Lake County Recreation, Vice President of Instruction James Taggart came from Ogden-Weber Area Technology Center and local contractor Fred Christiansen was also present.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Hagen. “It was something I never get to do.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. It was great!”

Punisher, a Utah National Guard Paladin howitzer, fires off an artillery round downrange from the 200-series firing point at Camp Williams.

Photo by Private Rebecca Hansen

Punisher, a Utah National Guard Paladin howitzer, fires off an artillery

 round downrange from the 200-series firing point at Camp Williams.

Not only did these VIPs attend the live-fire exercise, but they went to some of the classes to see how the school works. They also visited a Forward Operating Base (FOB) for the Warrior Leader Course, and viewed training at the urban combat (MOUT) site.

“I've been involved in technical education for 15 years as an instructor and administrator.  I was really impressed with the quality and quantity of training that occurs at Camp Williams,” said James Taggart. “I had no idea of the diversity of offerings and number of students training at Camp Williams from around the country.”

“The reason we had the dignitaries come out is for public relations and recruitment. People need to know what we do and what we are about,” said Lt. Col. Bryce J. Taggart, 2nd  Battalion Commander and administrative officer for the 640th.

Artillery Soldiers take a break from their training at Camp Williams Nov. 14, where they brushed up on their 13B and 13F skills.

Photo by Private Rebecca Hansen

Artillery Soldiers take a break from their training at Camp Williams

Nov. 14, where they brushed up on their 13B and 13F skills.

“High school administrators have access to kids who are interested in the Guard.” said Hagen. “The closer the ties we have, the better we are able to allow access to buildings and students.”

At the live-fire, VIPs got an opportunity of a lifetime. With their Kevlar helmet on they got inside the Paladins, watched Soldiers load rounds and attach the lanyard. With careful instruction, they were allowed to pull the lanyard and fire off a round.

“It was a great experience to be able to climb into the howitzer, receive instructions and fire a 100-pound projectile over seven kilometers.  The Soldiers were so cordial, and they answered every question I could come up with,” said James Taggart. “I guess the best way to describe being able to pull the lanyard is the fact that I couldn't wipe the grin off my face for the next twenty minutes.  It was a thrill that I will not soon forget.”    

The weekend in general was a success for instructors and artillery students on the education front as well for informing the community of what the 640th does.

“Support from UTES (Unit Training Equipment Support), the Regiment, the subject-matter experts and the safeties on the gun line was good,” said Nish, “I think it was a good training environment for the students. We shot 550 rounds in two and a half days, and all the students were able to get the certifications they needed to get done.”