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A mortar explodes out of the expeditionary fire support M327 120mm towed mortar system, as Marines with Fox Battery, 2nd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division practice a call-for-fire training mission aboard Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb.17, 2010. The unit is third in the Marine Corps to qualify on the system, preparing them for their upcoming attachment to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit this fall.

Photo by Pfc. Andrew D. Johnston

Steel Rain: Fox 2/12 qualifies on new mortar system

17 Feb 2010 | Pfc. Andrew D. Johnston

Marines with Fox Battery, 2nd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division qualified with the expeditionary fire support M327 120mm smooth bored mortar system aboard Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, N.C., preparing them for their upcoming attachment to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit this fall, Feb.17, 2010.

“Any artillery battery that locks on to a MEU is going to get trained on the M327 EFSS,” said Gunnery Sgt. Robert K. Banfield, battery gunnery sergeant for Fox Battery. “We are the third artillery unit in the Marine Corps to be trained on this system.”

The M327 EFSS is used for 72-hour combat operations where it is flown from ship to shore using the MV-22 Osprey. During those 72 hours, vehicles, supplies, troops and heavier artillery move ashore.

“In artillery we can’t support the initial phase of the amphibious assault,” said Banfield. “We can’t shoot Howitzers from the ship. Now, with this mortar system, we can fly it into a location and create 72-hour sustainment operations allowing everyone else to get off ship and on shore.”

Banfield further explained how the Marine Corps had to develop a new vehicle to tow the equipment and still stay compatible with the Osprey.

“When it first came out we had to redesign the vehicles so they would fit in the Ospreys,” said Banfield. “The new vehicles have no armor which confused some people in the artillery community. The reason behind this is because they’re not meant to go out on long convoys. Because of the type of wars we’ve been in the past 10 years, a lot of people have that mindset that every thing needs to be armored for patrolling.”

Traditionally known for its amphibious assault capabilities, Banfield believes because the Marine Corps hasn’t had to utilize those tactics during current combat operations, makes it imperative they train with this equipment to maximize the units potential and combat readiness.

“Our current president doesn’t expect us to be in Afghanistan for as long as we were in Iraq,” said Banfield. “With that being the case, one of the commandant’s main focus is to get us back into amphibious training and the amphibious mindset. That’s why we’re training with the EFSS. The purpose of the mortar system is to bring it on a MEU in order to have that amphibious capability.”

As Marines moved down range, a sense of excitement filled the air knowing they would get to try out some new equipment and see what type of punch it packed.

“We just got certified today so this is the first time we get to shoot these bad-boys and see how they kick back,” said Cpl. Brad P. Schultz, section chief for gun one with Fox Battery. “I’m excited. This system is so much easier than the Howitzer. Just the maneuverability in itself is huge. With this system we’re able to hook it up to the back of our truck in minutes and move if we have to. It’s perfect for the mission it’s designed for.”

Once the rounds began firing down range, Schultz made it perfectly clear that anyone caught at the end of the cannon’s barrel wouldn’t be having a good day at all.

“This system has a 50-meter kill radius,” said Schultz. “The enemy wouldn’t even know what hit them. They might hear a little whistling noise but by that time their game is over!”

Artillery plays a vital role in combat operations, making them an essential part of any forward movement, which is why it’s important to keep the unit ready at a moments notice, said 2nd Lt. Joshua D. Kim, forward observer with Fox Battery.

“The maneuver operations can’t operate without fire support,” said Kim. That’s why we’re out here. We’re continuously training and constantly being tested. We’re ready for anything.”