Marine zeroes in for success

29 Jun 2006 | Pfc. Josephh R. Stahlman

As the hidden lead scout locates the enemy bunker through his binoculars in the brush, he radios their position back to Marines awaiting coordinates. The Marines hastily compute the position to artillerymen standing ready next to 16,000 pound cannons. After an explosion in the distance, the scout takes another look through his binoculars and sees the blazing rubble of where the enemy bunker used to be.

Pfc. Colby C. Alberts, a fire direction controlman with Battery I, 5th Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, trained at Gun Point 13 for his future deployment. During the five-day training exercise, Alberts and his battery performed different tasks they would carry out while deployed to a forward position.

“The battery is out here training for what it’s going to be like when we are deployed,” said Alberts, who’s been in the Marine Corps for almost a year now.

“Our battery is split into three different platoons,” said the Kasson, Minn., native. “The first platoon is providing security around the perimeter and has set up a vehicle check point.”

The second platoon is in reserve and the third is on the gun line, where there are usually six 16,000 pound M198 howitzers, Alberts said.

“Each platoon takes turns at every station,” Alberts said. “My job is to calculate information given to me by forward observers and give that information to the gun line.”

“The forward observer’s job is to give us coordinates on enemy locations and obstructions,” said Lance Cpl. Jeremy K. Anderson, a Birmingham, Ala., native and also a fire direction controlman.

“After I check the data to make sure it’s all correct, the radio operator gives the calculations to the Marines on the gun line and they move the howitzers into position to fire,” Alberts explained.

When the Marines on the gun line are given the go ahead to fire, they fire high explosive rounds as far as 30,000 meters with a 100-meter kill radius.

“It gets pretty hectic when you get a lot of grids coming at once,” Alberts said. “You have to be fast to make sure the information is right and send it to the gun line.”

“It takes everyone to do their job right to get the right information to the gun line and Alberts is always fast and correct with his,” said 29-year-old Anderson. “For a guy his age to be doing what he’s doing is outstanding.”

Alberts, who is 19 years old, grew up on a farm and graduated from Kasson High School in June 2005.

During high school, Alberts worked as a painter, a construction worker and a small gas engine mechanic.

“I had a lot of different jobs growing up,” Albert said. “I enjoy doing different things and I don’t mind a little hard work.”

Alberts played football and wrestled in high school, winning the all-state championship his senior year.

He said he wanted to do something different than anyone else he knew was doing. Alberts made that decision when he joined the Marine Corps in May 2005.

Using all the skill and determination it took for him to become a state champion, Alberts now hones his skills to be better prepared for Iraq.

“Even with all the chaos of everything going on at once, we still manage to calculate the information and send it to the gun line for the howitzers to fire,” Alberts said. “When everything is over, and I hear that we hit our target, it feels good to know I did my job right.”