CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- During previous years, Marine artillery has been an important part of supporting Marines on the battlefield. During 2012, rocket artillery fired a record number of rounds in support of those Marines.
The High Mobility Rocket Artillery System batteries of 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, fired approximately 400 rockets in Helmand province during 2012, said 1st Lt. Robert Bohn, the operations officer with Sierra Battery, 5th Bn., 11th Marines.
Romeo Battery fired six early during 2012, Tango fired 187 up to June, and Sierra fired 207 to bring the total to 400, said Bohn.
“That number is equal to or even more than the total fired in the last four years combined,” said Capt. Jason Reukema, commanding officer of Sierra Battery.
While the increase is in sheer numbers, it’s also about the capabilities of both the rocket artillery round and the batteries.
“We are that persistent 24-hour fire support that is precision effective,” said Reukema, a native of Montreal, Canada, who grew up in Temple City, Calif. “We told them that whatever they needed to hit, we can hit it and we can hit it fast. We’ve cut the time down to three to five minutes to fire that rocket. I can’t tell you exactly how fast we can do it, but it’s faster than the enemy can get away and often times faster than they can even get an attack set up.”
Other factors have come into play with the increase in HIMARS rounds. As the U.S. military draws down forces, the smaller number of ground forces need accurate and timely fire support, Reukema said.
HIMARS Marines have also begun firing in support of Special Operations Forces. The HIMARS has been an effective weapon for the SOF teams who often travel without as much support as traditional infantry units and in smaller numbers, said Bohn.
Four hundred rockets fired equates to more than just enemies killed, it also increases the mission for the Marines.
“It’s caused us to be more aggressive, and we’ve had to raise our readiness state,” Reukema said. “The maintenance has been a challenge for us.”
Reukema is proud to be a part of this monumental year for rocket artillery.
“When we hit 400 between us and Tango, we were like, ‘Holy smokes, this is a game changer.’” Reukema said. “This is a game changer for counterinsurgency. It’s been very significant that the battery I command has hit this milestone, killed the enemy, and been able to save Marines’ lives.”
The Marines of Sierra Battery are also proud to be a part of HIMARS.
“It’s good to know that if we fire a rocket it’s saving a Marine’s life or helping someone out,” said Cpl. Davis Frye, a 21-year-old Cumming, Ga. Native, and HIMARS chief.
As Sierra Battery prepares to turn over with Romeo Battery, the Marines believe they have made a significant impact.
“I think we have cemented that Marine artillery is going to be here for awhile,” Reukema said.