Not even a midmorning downpour could dampen the excitement of watching the 10-foot, solid concrete rockets soar through the sky.
“My daddy shot a rocket,” said 5-year-old James Mack after watching the live-fire demonstration hosted by his father’s unit, 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Fires Brigade, on Thursday morning at a Fort Hood training range.
Soldiers fired multiple rounds from M-270 rocket launchers before an audience of about 150 family members, students from Manor Middle School and residents of Centerville. Afterward, people got the chance to see the launcher and the battalion’s other vehicles up close and ask questions.
Nicknamed by soldiers as the “grid square remover system,” the track vehicle launcher can send an actual combat rocket anywhere from 3 to 190 miles, but when using the reduced-range practice rocket, the distance is about 15 miles.
“When you’re sitting inside, you get all the blast from it,” said Sgt. Ricky Montgomery, a launcher chief with the battalion.
Working with the launcher on a daily basis is fun and challenging, he said.
“It takes a lot of discipline and hard work,” he said. “The most interesting thing about the launcher is the way it’s angled. It’s intimidating to our enemy.”
But the demonstration wasn’t just to show off the battalion’s assets to the community, said Lt. Col. Kenneth McDaniel, battalion commander. Crews were also conducting biannual section-level certification on the launcher.
“Section-level certification is the baseline of everything we do,” he said. “It’s the most basic and critical skill these soldiers have.”
The battalion chose to bring not just families out, but also its community partners, who typically support them, McDaniel said.
“They’ve done a lot of stuff for us in the past, so it’s nice anytime we can integrate them into something we are doing,” he said.
Forrester Polk, a 14-year-old eighth-grader from Manor, said coming out to the demonstration was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I wasn’t expecting it to look like that,” he said. “It’s better.”