Guardians make it rain fire, steel
POHANG, Republic of Korea -- The ground shakes and the air is thick with smoke. Unfamiliar mountains loom above the Marines who move through the haze with quick motions and precise movements. They load another round in the behemoth of a weapon in front of them. The call of “Fire!” rings out and the howitzer releases the projectile with an earth-shattering blast.
Field artillery Marines with Golf Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment showed their skills as they began their first day of live-fire April 3 at the Su Seung-ri Range in the Republic of Korea as part of Exercise Ssang Yong 2014, an exercise that showcases the relationship between the ROK and U.S. forces.
The unit is currently assigned to Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
Golf Battery is originally from Camp Pendleton, Calif., and firing in a foreign country provides some challenges, according to Capt. Blake Jackson, the Golf Battery commander, but it also provides good training for the Marines.
“It’s one of those things that if you change where the Marines are firing from and what the atmosphere is like, it makes them a little bit more flexible,” said Jackson. “(It makes them) a little bit more responsive when they have to go to some foreign land and do this for real in support of our brothers.”
The purpose of field artillery is to provide accurate fire support to the infantry.
“Our battery call sign is ‘Guardian,’ and we always say that we are the guardians of our brothers,” said Jackson. “When the infantrymen are downrange, and they need fire support to prevent them from being taken over by the enemy and enable them to take the particular objective, we’re going to make sure it’s being done in a timely manner.”
The Marines take between ten to fifteen seconds to set the M777A2 lightweight 155 mm howitzers between shots, and during that time, the Marines have to scour the inside of the artillery piece, load the nearly 100 pound rounds, make sure it is in its proper place using a rammer, put the primer inside and then fire. Like a race car pit crew, the Marines are fast, accurate and focused.
The four howitzers of Golf Battery took less than five minutes to shoot a total of 40 rounds.
“I like what I do,” said Lance Cpl. Aaron M. Manigault, a field artillery cannoneer with Golf Battery. “It’s exciting – the cannon going off, the explosion, everything.”
The Marines performed incredibly well, according to Jackson. Batteries attached to the 31st MEU do not have the opportunity to shoot very often, but the Marines’ skills had not dulled.
“I can’t be prouder of these guys,” said Jackson. “If that’s all we shoot for the rest of the time we’re out here, we’ll be all right because the guys got some excitement out of that.”
But Manigault hopes that this will not be the last time they shoot.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back to work and get the rest (of the rounds) off,” said Manigault. “I really want to shoot some more and just have some fun and do my job and make my unit proud.”