U.S. Army/Spc. Sharla Lewis - Pvt. Timothy Lambert, left, and Sgt. Justin Seaton, both cannon crewmembers with 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, load charges into the tube of a M109A6 Paladin during a live-fire exercise Oct. 28 at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. -

By Spc. Sharla Lewis

3rd Brigade Combat Team

public affairs

FORT IRWIN, Calif. - For the first time since 2008, the Steel Dragons are making an impact on the National Training Center.

Soldiers from Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, recently conducted a live-fire exercise as part of reception staging onward movement and integration before a two-week field training exercise at Fort Irwin in the California desert.

The battery's four M109A6 Paladins moved to the post's training area to conduct calibrations and an eight-round firing mission. Later, they fired an Excalibur round; the first in the training center's history.

Field artillery isn't used as frequently now as in previous years. Leaders with the battery said they appreciated the practice the facility provides.

"Knowing gunnery and ballistics and manual gunnery, it's kind of a lost art," said 2nd Lt. Brian Lee. "Being able to shoot and check off what you shoot manually is always good. Plus, it's nice to hear things go boom."

The Excalibur round is a GPS-guided, 155 mm artillery round used to pinpoint targets from far away. Introduced in 2007, the round is still experimental and the success of this firing mission set the groundwork for missions in the future.

The soldiers who fired the Excalibur round said it was exciting to be part of something groundbreaking.

"It's pretty exciting to know that we're the only crew that was chosen to fire it," Spc. David Hensley said. "I've never seen it before so it was a lot of fun to be there."

Sgt. 1st Class Shawn "Smoke" Moriarity, the crew's platoon sergeant, said seeing his soldiers experience what he experienced as a young trooper meant a lot.

"Just watching my chiefs and solders get to do their job; watching them fire and watching the excitement they get to fire live rounds down range means a lot to me," he said.

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