RAWAH, Iraq --
A target disappears in a cloud of smoke and debris.
The Marines responsible for this awesome display of destruction are miles away. They do not stop to reflect on the decimation they have just caused. They load the next round.
The ground thunders as the Marines of India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, fire 107 mm High Explosive Rounds to coordinates called in by a group of Iraqi Army training with the Military Transition Team, near Combat Operations Post Rawah.
“We train with the IA every three or four weeks to familiarize them with calling for fire,” said Cpl. Enrique Cruz, 25, from Albuquerque N.M., who is a cannonier with India Battery.
There was a group of about 30 IA officers and senior enlisted that came to see the India Battery guns.
“The IA doesn’t have artillery capabilities yet, but teaching them fundamentals is a good place to start,” said Cruz.
“A lot of them have prior Iraqi military experience so they have called in artillery before,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin P. Mahoney, 31, from Ogdensburg, N.Y., who is an artillery operations chief with India Battery.
Mahoney works in the Fire Direction Center which is the brains of the operation.
“We receive calls for fire and tell the gun where to point, what type of round to load and how much powder to use,” said Mahoney.
The Howitzer is capable of firing High Explosive rounds, illumination rounds and smoke rounds.
The advent of the M 777 A-2 medium-towed Howitzer has made higher speed and accuracy possible.
With all of this high power equipment, it is still only as effective as the Marines running the guns.
“We keep good accountability during watch hours so if we did take Indirect Fire, we are ready to counter fire, said Cruz.
As long as they get a good point of origin location, the FDC can direct rounds with deadly accuracy.
“We are firing 95 lbs of steel and explosives; we will annihilate whatever is there,” said Mahoney.