Fire away

From left, Spcs. Stephen Keeling, Taylor West and Tyler Bowman, all indirect fire infantrymen with 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, place a 120mm mortar round during a mortar live-fire training exercise Sept. 11. Mortar crews receive grid information from a fire support team located between the target and the mortar crew, then fire over the firs support team at the target.

Pfc. Paige Pendleton | U.S. Army

“Hang it! Fire! Boom!”

That is the sound of teamwork and preparation prior to the moment a mortar is safely and successfully fired.

Indirect fire infantrymen and fire support specialists with “Garryowen,” 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, executed live-fire mortar training Sept. 11-13.

After classroom instruction, written exams and testing on their equipment, the exercise certified fire support teams and qualified mortar crews on M-121 120mm mortar systems.

Cpl. William Shelton, a Garryowen indirect fire infantryman, said after seven live-fire experiences he still gets nervous hanging mortar rounds because of the danger involved.

“It makes you respect your weapons system a lot more,” Shelton said.

Mortar crews must maintain cohesion, because it takes four to five soldiers to run the M-1064/A-3 Mortar Carrier track vehicle, Shelton said. Every crew member on the vehicle is a safety.

Shelton said crew members conduct checks from the time the round leaves its packaging until it is hung in the firing tube.

“You can’t run these by yourself,” Shelton said. “It’s not like an M-4 (rifle) where you can just go out and shoot.”

Staff Sgt. Ryan Anderson, also a Garryowen indirect fire infantryman, said teamwork is key in this exercise.

“Not one individual can do every task,” Anderson said. “If the team does not work as a team, then the crew will fail.”

There is too much to do, Anderson said. One soldier runs gun mission data, another drives and pivots the vehicle, a third selects the correct round and preps it, while another soldier assists in getting the mortar tube up and running, hanging the rounds safely.

Capt. Ryan Schuler, a Garryowen fire support officer, said support teams and mortar crews work collectively as an indirect fire system where the team is the eyes of the system.

Because mortar and team qualifications occur about every six months, the teams conduct a lot of co-training, Schuler said. The support team finds the target, and the mortar team running the mortar tube is the muscle of the system.

Mortar crews receive grid information from a support team located between the target and the mortar crew, then fire over the support team at the target.

Garryowen is preparing for its upcoming rotation to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., by certifying platoons and conducting gunnery and troop certification.

Schuler said because the support team typically uses a computer simulator to train, fire supporters don’t often call in live rounds, which is important since a computer screen isn’t the same as a live scenario.

“There is nothing you can do to replicate actually sitting out here observing,” Schuler said.

Although the exercise is slow paced, the soldiers’ motivation and morale is high, Anderson said, adding his favorite part of the training is the camaraderie it builds.

These exercises are the first opportunity for new fire support officers and enlisted soldiers coming from advanced individual training to get out and conduct the training, Schuler said.

“A good degree of their job will be on-the-job-training downrange, but they’re getting the essentials now to set them up for success later,” Anderson said.

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