Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gators Fire 2nd BCT’s First Rounds Since Iraq

By 1st Lt. Zach Alessi-Friedlander
Contributing Writer

The howitzers had been quiet since the first of November of 2007, but that changed on April 23.
For fifteen long months, the Battery A “Gators,” 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, provided fire support for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team in its expansive area of operations comprising the farms, fields and cities south of Baghdad. During that time, the Gators shot almost 3,000 rounds in support of BCT operations.
Last week, the guns roared back to life as the Gators traveled to the field for three days to complete section-level certification. Fort Drum’s notoriously fickle weather cooperated, allowing the Gators to qualify all eight of their howitzer sections and both of their fire-direction sections.
Section certification is a major training gate for a firing battery because successful completion of what the field artillery world calls “Table VIII” is mandatory for the unit to continue with its more advanced training and live-fire exercises.
The post-deployment phase of reconstituting the formation and resetting equipment forced the Gators to grapple with many of the same challenges imposed upon other units in 2nd BCT.
The battery’s Soldiers spent long hours in the classroom and doing dry-fire crew drills, refining the tasks required of them for Table VIII, but this live-fire exercise presented the battery with the opportunity to translate these skills from drill to practice.
“Table VIII gave the [fire-direction sections] the chance to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and put it into practice,” said 1st Lt. Tom Campbell, the fire direction officer in first platoon. “It’s one thing to learn in the classroom, but it’s a totally different experience to give actual firing data to gun sections that are chucking rounds down range.”
This field exercise also allowed the battalion’s various support elements to contribute to an artillery live fire. Specifically, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery provided medics; their survey section, which provided the firing unit with accurate direction and distance information for the firing site; and their meteorological section, which provided the fire-direction centers with the weather information that they must take into account when determining firing data for the howitzers.
Battery G, the battalion’s support and service battery, provided a large maintenance crew to attend to any vehicle, weapons, or mechanical problems the Gators might have experienced during their time in the field.
Because of the current operating environment, artillerymen are often forced to perform in a number of different roles while deployed. During the deployment, the Gators not only provided fire support for the entire BCT, but they also conducted numerous combat patrols in the Sayyid-Abdullah Corridor and within Mahmudiyah.
But artillerymen must always remain sharp and ready on their core skill set.
“The live-fire exercise afforded the battery the opportunity to allow our new Soldiers to experience rigorous field artillery training for the first time,” said Sgt. 1st Class Phillip DeVos. “It also allowed our more seasoned Soldiers, who spent large parts of the deployment doing maneuver tasks, to re-embrace their basic artillery skill sets.”
The experience of training for and successfully executing Table VIII has inspired confidence amongst Btry. A’s leaders and Soldiers.
"Today is my birthday, and as I turn 31, the battery has given me the greatest gift they could think of,” said Capt. Lee North, the battery commander. “They have safely and accurately fired over 250 rounds of 105mm artillery projectiles as part of Table VIII certification. I am honored and humbled to be in the presence of these fine Soldiers."

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