Soldiers with 2nd “Steel Dragons” Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, recently finished its section qualifications Sept. 24, to ensure readiness for any mission where its guns are needed.
The two-week training went by with 16 howitzer sections, four fire direction centers, three combat observation and lasing teams, two radar sections and a survey section conducting a series of artillery gunnery tables.
Since the radars and observation teams had already earned their qualifications, the main focus was on the battalion’s explosive elements — the howitzers and fire direction centers.
In preparation for qualifications, the two sections went through several weeks of intense training, starting with the Paladin Leader’s Academy in August.
Once in the field, the crews began going through their artillery gunnery table tasks, including occupying a position, establishing operations and communications and processing and rehearsing both direct and indirect fire missions, leading up to a simulated firing certification.
All crews were given six days to complete these tasks and get dry-fire certified before they could move to live-fire section qualifications.
“We are starting out at a much higher level than we started at this time last year,” said Lt. Col. Robert B. Hensley, the battalion commander. “Although we had a large turnover (of personnel), there is still a large number of resident knowledge in the battalion that’s allowing us to start at a higher level of proficiency.”
In order for sections to qualify, soldiers had to perform all the tasks from the simulated fire certification again, using live 155 mm rounds.
With these rounds, weighing in at 95 pounds and filled with explosive materials, being able to execute their tasks and fire missions safely and without incident became part of the equation.
“I’m looking for proper crew drills and making sure that everything is safe,” said the battalion’s Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Cabrera Sr.