FORT POLK, La. — Pvt. Jordan Adams experienced and learned a lot in the nine months he’s been in the Army.
Adams, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, said the first time he pulled the lanyard to fire a M-777 howitzer was an experience that’s hard to explain.
“I really liked it a lot,” Adams said. “Just the thrill of shooting a live round, it’s nothing like I’ve (done) before.”
Although Adams didn’t shoot live ammunition this week at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., he said the center’s simulation of Afghanistan is preparing about 3,200 brigade soldiers for deployment to the country this summer. In Afghanistan, the “Black Jack” brigade will close combat outposts and forward operating bases in the country to aid the U.S. withdrawal in 2014.
“I wish I would have joined (the Army) sooner,” said Adams, 22. “I’m just glad we’re pulling out (of Afghanistan) and all of us will be safe and back home.”
Monday was the last day of force-on-force training at the center and soldiers will return to Fort Hood early next week.
Adams, whose job is to pull the lanyard that fires 155mm ammunition out of the weapons system, and the soldiers in his platoon provided artillery support for Forward Operating Base Anvil throughout the week.
Sgt. Jeff Jones, a section chief, and the nine soldiers he assigned duties to spent the past two months training on the equipment. Training at the center gave the relatively new and young soldiers the opportunity to see what it’s like to fire the weapon system in combat.
“Whenever someone calls for artillery, someone’s in trouble,” Jones said. “It’s our job to provide timely and accurate fires for infantry on the ground, engineers that are on the ground beating the streets, as well as any kind of counter fire. When we take indirect fires, it’s our job to return fire on those opportunistic targets.”
Sgt. 1st Class Elliott J. Maldonado, chief of Fires Battery for 1st Platoon, said precision is an important part of training. “We need to be really accurate,” he said. “We don’t want to hurt anybody out there, especially on a training exercise.”
Jones said they’ve done a great job mastering the machine in a short amount of time.
“I’ve been blown away by their level of professionalism,” he said. “At the end of this, we’ll (do an after-action review) of the whole thing and really know what we need to watch for with the guys.”
Evaluations throughout the training done by observer controllers at the center allowed soldiers to see what they can improve.
“We, as a platoon, are going to be way better than when we came in,” Maldonado said. “That’s the whole purpose of it, to come in, take criticism (and advise) as it is ... and implement it in our training.”