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Fire all of your (howitzers) at once
Marne Thunder exercises teamwork, capabilities of field artillery
Divarty exercise Kenney
Soldiers with 1st Battalion,9th Field Artillery Regiment load an M777 155 mm howitzer during 3rd Infantry Division Artillerys mass time on target exercise March 1 on Fort Stewart. - photo by Photo by Caitlin Kenney/Coastal Courier

For the first time in several years, the two field artillery battalions of 3rd Infantry Division Artillery worked together to demonstrate their ability to conduct a mass time on target exercise.

Several hundred soldiers participated in the Tuesday morning exercise, in which more than 30 howitzers fired on the same target simultaneously from different locations.

The artillery weapons that fired were the towed M777 155 mm and M119A3 105 mm howitzers as well as the self-propelled M109A6 Paladin 155 mm howitzer.

The mass time on target exercise was a culminating event for DIVARTY, according to Col. Todd Wasmund, the commander of 3rd Infantry Division Artillery. He said DIVARTY tries to conduct the activity quarterly to exercise the digital capabilities of its fire support systems.

Looking at the impact area from a cliff miles away, observers could see the blast waves as the artillery rounds hit the target, kicking up dirt and making clouds of thick smoke. The blast waves from the impacts could also be strongly felt as they hit the earth in quick succession.

A Grey Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, from Wright Army Airfield on Fort Stewart also was flying above to give observers on the ground a picture of the target DIVARTY units were hitting.

“So the Grey Eagle is enormously important for us to be able to observe in a way that we just can’t do it standing on an observation post like this,” Wasmund said.

During the soldiers’ rehearsal the day before, the UAV “enabled us to see, from a — literally a bird’s-eye view — how the rounds were impacting and how accurate they were relative to the target,” he said. “Enormous capability.”

He added that as a tool, the Grey Eagle is “invaluable.”

The training from the time on target exercise “is very important to us in order to exercise, most importantly, our digital fire-support systems,” Wasmund said.

The digital system is “much more efficient, and it enables us to employ our systems more effectively than if we relied on some of the older voice systems,” he added.

At one of the locations that the howitzers were firing from was 1st Lt. Chance Carrick, with Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Regiment, a fire direction officer who made sure the data the observers sent to the unit about the target’s location is processed and given to the individual guns.

Carrick said it was not “too difficult” to have the guns fire on the same target simultaneously because of the technology that they use to compute the information.

“The biggest thing is just ensuring that all the guns receive the mission at the same time and they respond to our firing sequence at the correct time,” he said.

Having the individual units that make up DIVARTY working together to fire on the same target at the same time was a significant milestone.

“Honestly, this is the first time, I believe in about 10 years, that the entire DIVARTY — so all of the field artillery weapon systems for all of 3rd ID — have been together and firing at the exact same time,” Carrick said.

Usually, the units conduct operations at just the battery and battalion level, according to Carrick.

“But this is a pretty cool experience to witness and to be a part of, with the entire DIVARTY firing at the same time,” he added.

The exercise not only allowed DIVARTY units to test their digital communication systems, Wasmund said, but it also demonstrated they “are able to mass all of the division’s fire support assets on to a target at the same time.”

“It enables us to be responsive in support of the division’s operations and bring a significant capability, and make it available for the division commander,” he said.

Sgt. Jeremy Abrell of Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Regiment, is a section chief who oversees the safety on the gun.

“I feel we did good,” he said. “I feel like we could’ve stepped up a little bit more, but definitely a good show at the end.”

Having the howitzers lined up and firing on the same target “definitely gave a good show of force,” Abrell said.

“They were actually quite accurate,” Wasmund said about the different howitzers firing together on the target. “And we’ll be able to go back and look at the way that the rounds impacted and capture any lessons learned that we need to understand better where we need to improve some of our training.”

For an exercise like this, having all of the artillery battalions under DIVARTY “helps us to ensure standardization of training and employment of the systems across the division so that we can raise the training level of the field artillery battalions,” Wasmund said. “So that they are as well-prepared as possible to support the brigade combat teams that they are aligned with.”

“And then, also, our ability to bring those capabilities together in support of the division at the same time when necessary,” he added.

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