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Marines, soldiers team up for artillery exercise in Iraq

29 Jul 2004 | Cpl. Veronika Tuskowski

Marines and soldiers came together to light the skies and shake the ground with an artillery exercise July 29. 

Marines and Army forward observers teamed up to get the steel to rain down on targets fired on by Army artillery at Camp Ramadi. 

"This training was designed for platoon certification," said Army Lt. Col. Mike Cabrey, the field artillery battalion commander. "This is the fourth one we have conducted, and it allows us to train with observers, guns and the fire direction center.  We have also incorporated the Marines with us here, this provides good training for them."

The two units, Marines from 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment and soldiers from 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, perform different missions in Iraq.  The Marines left their howitzers behind and took on the role of a traditional rifle battalion.  The soldiers are tasked with providing artillery support to Marines and soldiers around Ar Ramadi.

"This training is to keep up our skills," explained Sgt. Mario E. Villasenor, a forward observer with the Marine battalion. "It feels good to do our job, and most of our radio operators are getting to call it in for fire. It gives them a chance to train.  It has been six months since we shot anything."

During the training, the Marines and soldiers conducted a variety of different missions; shooting quick smoke, immediate smoke, laser-guided and high-explosive, ground burst illumination along with a close-air support battle drill.  They did it while aiming in to six different targets.

"I think they have done very well for having a variety of missions," Cabrey said. "All elements are getting great training out of this."

The soldiers get to apply these skills almost on a daily basis as part of counter-battery attacks against mortar fire launched by anti-Iraqi fighters against area camps.

"The main missions we fire over here are counter fire and high explosives to support the troops in contact," Cabrey said. "Our guns are the response unit to any rockets or mortars that come onto any of the base camps."

Cabrey explained that the latest radar technologies and discipline of the gun crews enables the soldiers to launch rounds against attackers quickly.  Still, speed on the gun line is the essence of the mission.  Soldiers work to get the targeting information to the gun crews quickly to ensure that when the howitzers belch out rounds, the enemy is still in the impact area.

It's a race against time.

"The radar gives us a very close grid," Cabrey explained.  "The enemy expects us to shoot back, so they get out of the area as soon as possible."