By Pvt. Ryan Elliott

14th Public Affairs

The percussion of artillery fire rocked Training Area 31 as soldiers from 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, blasted their way through gunnery certification July 11.

“We’re shooting TNT,” yelled Bravo Battery 1st Sgt. Walter Preston, over the rumble of echoing fire.

The live-fire exercise is part of the training the regiment’s soldiers are undergoing as they gear up for their deployment to Iraq.

“Right now, we’re focusing our efforts on two things: getting our guys qualified and mastering the new Excalibur weapons system,” said 1st Sgt Jesse Batts Jr. of Alpha Battery.

The Excalibur weapons system is an innovative, next-generation weapon system that fires a 155mm, global-positioning-system guided, fire-and-forget projectile, said Batts. It provides extremely accurate artillery strikes, which is absolutely essential in supporting American operations being conducted on a regular basis in Iraq.

“Right now, we’re just working through some of the growing pains associated with operating a new weapons system,” Capt. Juan Santiago said. “We’re very happy with how the exercise has gone; the few digital glitches that we had with the software were easily fixed.”

“Our precision was good, and I’ve been really impressed by how our section chiefs have stepped up to the plate and really provided excellent leadership to their crews — it takes a special kind of soldier to come out here and do this job,” Batts said.

Artillerymen are being called upon more and more to perform task that traditionally fell on the shoulders of infantrymen, he added.

“We’re conducting combat patrols on a regular basis when were deployed,” said Preston.

“All this training is necessary so that we can go out there and do what it is we need to do,” added Batts.

The live fire exercise was the battalion’s last stop before heading to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin,Calif., where the soldiers will prepare for their upcoming deployment to Iraq in December.

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