Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gators take heavy weapons for an aerial spin

By 2nd Lt. Mike Schulman
2nd Bn., 15th FAR Fire Direction Officer

For some members of Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd BCT, the air assault and sling load training they participated in on May 27 was second nature. Battery A ran an air assault school for the Iraqi Army during their last deployment in 2007. Those NCOs that were with the ‘Gators’ in Iraq passed on their knowledge and skill on Tuesday to the new Soldiers that have since joined the unit.
The goal of the day’s training was to prepare the Soldiers of Btry. A, under the command of Capt. Lee North, for air assault missions that they will carry out in the future. One of the things artillerymen pride themselves on is their ability to accurately fire their weapons in any weather, terrain, or environment. With this training and the aid of the Blackhawk helicopters, Btry. A’s Soldiers can bring the fight to the enemy, no matter where the battlefield may be.
The day started as classes were given by Sgt. Matthew Konapatski and Staff Sgt. Barry Belles on how to rig a M119 Howitzer for a sling-load mission. In addition, a class on how to prepare a cargo net bag was given by staff sergeants James Claymore and Charles Bruckner. The Soldiers watched attentively as their NCOs went over every detail on how to prepare equipment for the helicopters. They also showed their Soldiers how to properly inspect their Howitzers and bags for mistakes and improper rigging.
“This training is good stuff; it’s realistic and gets everyone involved,” Konapatski said. By everyone, he meant everyone in the battery. North was the first Soldier in the battery to do a live hook up on Tuesday. In addition, both fire direction officers, 2nd Lt. Mike Schulman and 2nd Lt. Tom Upton, did hands-on training with their Soldiers.
“It was a good experience to be able to work with other units in the 10th Mountain Division,” said Pfc. Gregg Swanson, a gunner. “It’s good to see how an operation comes together with two completely different types of units - artillery and aviation, working towards completing the same mission.”
“You learn to respect the helicopters,” one of the officers said. “I got blown over when they were coming in to land.”
Once the Soldiers learned how to rig their equipment, the real training began. The helicopters came in and began to hover only 15 feet off the ground. From there, the Soldiers would stand on top of either their cannon or cargo net bag and hook their equipment up to the bird. The helicopters were only inches above the Soldier’s helmets as they worked together. Once hooked, all the Soldiers involved would quickly run to the left of the helicopter and wait for it to take off.
Battery A, who will be doing air assault missions this summer while training cadets at West Point, gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from the training. As part of the Global Reaction Force mission that the 2nd BCT has taken on, the Gators can take their cannons anywhere, and bring their firepower wherever it is needed.

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