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Tuning up the artillery

Coordinated training hits a high note

As Sgt. Ronald Lahr watches, Spc. Damon Brown and Spc. Mark Torres, Cobra Company, 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, load a M777 howitzer during a training exercise with the 2/75 Ranger Regiment and the 16th CAB. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Like a symphony, the call for artillery fire initiates an agreement between maneuver, artillery and, sometimes, aviation elements to produce a harmonious outcome.

"The forward observer who calls in for fire support is like a conductor," said Maj. Jason Turner, operations officer, 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment. "He leads a symphony of destruction; everything affects at the right time."

A symphony tells a story, and in this one there are three major groups of musicians played by the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment; the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade; and the 17th FA.

The artillerymen performed as the largest and loudest instrument in this arrangement.  With their three M777A2 155-millimeter howitzers, they delivered live rounds when directed by the fire direction center (FDC).

"This is great training for us," commented Sgt. Ronald Lahr, section chief, Cobra Company, as he and his soldiers stood next to the instrument they call ‘Crush.'"

Capt. Steven Becker commands the battery.

As Lahr talked, he kept his eyes on his sheet of music, a device called a chief of section display (CSD), that gave him the deflection and quadrant notes he and his crew needed to play.

Joining Lahr in this symphonic arrangement were Spc. Mark Torres; Pfc. Brett Poage; Spc. Damon Brown; Sgt. Curtis Nordquist; Spc. Tyler Adkins; Spc. Roy Merryman; and 1st Lt. Caleb Licavoli, 2nd Platoon leader.

Overhead and out of ear and eyesight were two Apache helicopters from the 16th CAB.  Their pilots played the high notes of aerial reconnaissance and scouting ahead, looking for enemy movement.

In the middle of these aerial and artillery musicians, Ranger forward observers conducted the symphony by calling in for and adjusting fire as needed on an objective to produce the desired effect.

"This is very good training for their forward observers," continued Turner.

The training is also advantageous to the battalion's gun crews.

The 2-17 FA is part of the 2nd Infantry Division Artillery (DIVARTY), which is a part of the 7th Infantry Division.

Col. David Pierce commands the DIVARTY.

The Army has recreated the DIVARTY model that it once used as it restructures post Iraq and Afghanistan.

The change is part of the process to "restructure and re-right our forces," said Maj. Gen. Terry Ferrell, commander, 7th ID, during the DIVARTY's reactivation ceremony in 2014. "It's about planning for the future."

While deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, artillery units were incorporated into larger combat brigades, and artillerymen found themselves focused less on artillery engagements and more on patrolling missions.

"It is an advantage to us to get repetitions on the basics," said Turner. "With these young soldiers, we get to work on our proficiency."

This integrated approach to training leads to a harmonious outcome; the objective of any symphonic performance that tells a story.

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