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Artillerymen wipe the dust off their howitzers

24 Mar 2009 | Lance Cpl. Skyler Tooker

It’s been more than two years, but the Marines with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division are firing cannons once again.

These Marines have been in Iraq for the past year, rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure in Al-Anbar province as a civil affairs group, rebuilding infrastructure such as schools and roads, but now it is time to get back to what it knows best: blasting artillery rounds at the enemy.

“We’re transitioning from a civil affairs group,” said Staff Sgt. Antoine Griffith, 27, from Tampa Bay, Fla., section chief, gun one, Company F. “This is the second time we have fired since our return from deployment. The last two weeks we did battery-size shoots, and we are going to a battalion-size shoot next.”

The training evolution involved call-for-fire missions where three gun stations were shooting simultaneously.

Each station is equipped with a M-777 Howitzer, a section chief and an eight-man crew. Every Marine has his own job in order for the mission to be successful.

It is the job of the section chief to verify that the correct charges are used for the mission and coordinates are correct to ensure the safety of his Marines and accuracy of the artillery rounds.

The other Marines, such as the number one gunner, lift and lower the feed tray, hook the lanyard up and fire when given the order.

There is a Marine who receives the call-for-fire, a Marine who gets the right charge for the mission, and a Marine to help slide the round in the howitzer. Other Marines keep accountability of the ammunition and other tasks given by the section chief.

“I have the final say on what goes on here at gun two,” said Sgt. Lamont P. Marshall, 28, from Kent, Ohio, section chief, gun two. “I verify everything as it’s being done and yell ‘fire’ when I know everything has been done properly and been verified.”

After the Marines get enough sustainment training and are comfortable to once again put accurate rounds down range, the training exercises will get bigger, moving to a battalion shoot and then a regimental shoot.

 “We are working toward a regimental-size shoot in April,” said Griffith.

The Marines at the gun stations are anxious to get back to the job they were trained to do and support their fellow Marines with heavy artillery fire.

The Marines are not only ready to shoot with the regiment, but are ready to get back in the fight, supporting other Marines, with accurate and effective rounds on target.