NORTHERN KUWAIT, Kuwait - With the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq complete, soldiers from throughout the Army are getting the opportunity to participate in training that is difficult to conduct back in the states.
In northern Kuwait, the Minnesota National Guard’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery, 34th Infantry Division took advantage of this unique situation.
Soldiers participated in crew qualification on the M109A6 Paladin, a self-propelled, tracked artillery vehicle with a 155-millimeter cannon that is capable of launching artillery shells upwards of ten miles through the guidance of an on board computer system.
The unit trains at Camp Ripley, Minn., during their weekend drills, but the resources to conduct training of this magnitude are scarce.
Since they arrived in Kuwait, the 1-125 FA has been providing security at Camp Patriot, Kuwait where training on field artillery weapons like the Paladin is impossible.
Fortunately the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division’s 1-82 Field Artillery out of Fort Hood, Texas acquired Paladins in Kuwait after being reassigned to 3rd Army after the draw down of U.S. Forces and equipment in Iraq.
Third Army, a higher headquarters unit for the 1-125 FA, tasked the 1-82 FA with training field artillery units like the 1-125 FA in crew qualification.
“To get a chance, in a combat theater like this, to shoot artillery is a once in a lifetime experience for all these guys and we’re really excited to be out here,” said 1-125 FA Capt. Casey Vulcan, a native of New Brighton, Minn.
The crew consists of a four-man team. The chief oversees the crew, a driver, a number one man, who loads the shell, and gunner to load the composition B powder that propels the shell and verifies all the information in the computer is correct, ensuring the round lands where it is supposed to before pulling the lanyard that fires the primer and launches the round.
“Absolutely it’s the best job in the gun,” remarked gunner Spc. Alex Scarset, a native of Minneapolis, Minn.
The crew receives coordinates for the computer from forward observers who are located miles away, tracking the impact and placement of the Paladin rounds.
The importance and uniqueness of this training is not lost on crew chief Sgt. Micha Pohlman from Rushmore, Minn.
“For most of us, it’s been two and a half years or more since we’ve actually fired, so it’s a nice refresher—it’s kind of exciting to get in the gun again and do the whole process.”
These soldiers will bring this valuable training experience back to Minnesota when the 1-125 FA returns home later this spring.