Headquarters Battery hones skills without firing rounds

Headquarters Battery hones skills without firing rounds

by Lance Cpl. Stephen D. Himes, III MEF/MCIPAC Consolidated Public Affairs Office
U.S. Marine Corps

When a unit embroiled in combat on the ground needs fire support, they call up the big guns.
When that call comes in to a fire support coordination center, the clock starts and every second counts. The faster Marines at the command center can process the call, the sooner rounds accurately go downrange to provide critical artillery support to front-line infantrymen.

Artillery Marines assigned to 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, improved their coordination and communications skills during a command post exercise April 21-25 in the Central Training Area near Camp Hansen.

“The CPX is centered on our core-mission essential tasks,” said Maj. Desmond F. Browne, the assistant operations officer with Headquarters Battery, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “That includes the processing of digital fire missions from the division FSCC down through the shooter, a process known as ‘sensor-to-shooter.’ We are also working on our command and control of subordinate elements.”

Live-fire artillery training is not authorized in the CTA, according to Browne, a Fairfax, Va., native. However, this training reviews the processes and procedures necessary to accurately and swiftly fire a round.

The unit also worked on establishing its forward fire direction center to allow the main FDC to reposition. This particular training evolution tested the mobility of the units along with the communication between the headquarters element and the firing batteries.

“We need to continue to improve the skills of the Marines that man the command post,” said Master Sgt. Ryan Elston, the artillery operations chief of Headquarters Battery. “We use a lot of command and control systems and it’s (difficult) to provide all of these elements for the commander to have all of the communications assets that he needs.”

There is a focus on the digital communications systems during the CPX, according to Elston, a Waverly, N.Y., native. The system allows for a quicker relaying of information about targets.

“We don’t get to use our skills unless we are in the field,” said Elston. “We train in the rear, but it is not as effective as when we are in the field physically doing what we would do in a combat situation.”

With all the moving parts of the exercise, the senior leaders wanted to make sure each Marine walked away from the exercise more knowledgeable in their field.

“I want (the junior Marines) to get technical knowledge of the systems that we use because those skills are perishable,” said Elston. “An FDC normally only has one Marine manning the digital communications system, so we are cycling people through (to get them all experience).”

Leaving every field operation with a better understanding of the systems is the key to exercise success, according to Elston.

“This has been a really enlightening exercise,” said Lance Cpl. Jacob Thomas, a field artillery radar operator with Headquarters Battery. “We have had a lot of time to learning how to do everything we are expected to do.”

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