A. Battery 1/10: Practicing how they Prepare to Play

11 Aug 2004 | Cpl. Mike Escobar

“Deflection, 3-2-4-6.” “3-2-4-6 verify.” Seeking shelter from noonday heat, the radio operating cannoneer, Lance Cpl. Sammie L. Caison, crouches under the tarp covering the back of the seven-ton vehicle and clutches the handset of his field radio. Sweat beads on the Brooklyn, N.Y. native’s brow underneath his helmet, as he looks out to his fellow Marines standing on the gun line. They all stare back at him, faces eager with anticipation, awaiting the order to fire. “Roger 3-2-4-6,” confirms a voice through the headset amidst the crackle and hissing of static.Caison grips the handset closer to his ear and makes a few quick notes. After a brief exchange of radio transmissions, he signals to the gun line. In unison, the leathernecks scramble through simulating loading the gun, then turn and move the M198 Howitzer into place. With the simple pull of a cord, the cannoneers complete the firing cycle that would rain destruction upon a terrorists’ position.Such was the scene the Marines of Battery A, 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment set during a Reconnaissance Selection Observation Position exercise here Aug. 11.The warriors practiced coordinating and communicating between the different components of the battery, conducting gun movements and dry fire runs to better accomplish their mission: providing fire support to suppress and destroy the enemy. “It’s good training, useful training,” said Lance Cpl. Anthony J. Charette, cannoneer with Battery A. “It helps us learn how to work together as a team.”The Poland, Maine native stated that the training benefited the junior Marines by helping them better understand how an artillery battery functions.Charette proceeded to explain how the process works: forward observers, artillerymen assigned to an infantry unit, call in a fire mission request to the cannoneers back in the rear. A liaison component receives the coordinates for the mission and communicates them to the fire direction control section, which analyzes them. After approval, the FDC calls down to the gunline, which in turn fires the artillery.The forward observers watch the impact and radio the main battery once more, this time with any necessary adjustments to effectively engage the enemy.Charette stated that the Marines practiced conducting “out of traverse” firing missions, during which they rotate the Howitzers to fire outside their originally designated sector of fire. They practiced these maneuvers in case their fields of fire change, and the command designates another area as a higher priority target.Despite their smooth performance during the evolution, Charette said he feels participating in refresher training is always a good idea.“Any artillery training we can get in right now is just going to be money,” agreed 1st Lt. Richard Lee, Liaison officer with Battery A. “For now, we’re just going step-by-step before we go out and actually shoot the guns during live-fire training. It’s the whole crawl, walk, run concept. We get the Marines up to speed (with the dry fire exercises) before we actually fire live ammo.”Lee said the training is also meant to keep the artillerymen’s skills fresh and prepare them for a possible deployment to Iraq in March.The battalion’s Battery B is already deployed to the Middle East with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Battery C is serving as part of the provisional infantry battalion, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment.No matter what the mission requires of his Marines, Lee is confident in their ability to perform competently.“Battery A was sort of stripped, so we were really shorthanded, but we continued to train. Now, we’re really starting to beef up and get back in the swing of things. Everyone here knows their jobs and performs exceptionally.”The weary warriors, reeking of sweat and sporting soiled uniforms, trudge through the grass, rolling up communications wire. Others hitch the Howitzers onto their seven-ton tactical vehicles, while several noncommissioned officers bark orders and supervise the wrap up.After a long day in the field, they complete their tasks and police the now-vacant field one last time. The Marines gladly scramble into their vehicles and begin the journey home. One warrior removes his cover, wipes the sweat off his brow, and lets out an exhausted sigh of relief.Mission accomplished.