Paladin crews prepare for qualification

FORT HOOD, Texas (Nov. 26, 2012) -- In the spirit of gunnery, field artillery crews secured their ammo, took on their fire mission and executed operations throughout training areas, here.

Artillerymen with Battery B, 3rd Battalion "Red Dragons," 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, conducted M109A6 "Paladin" howitzer live-fire calibration exercises Nov. 13-15, in preparation for crew qualifications this month.

A total of eight Paladin crews from two B Battery platoons participated in firing more than 30 155mm high explosive rounds at various practice zones, ensuring gun calibration and crew coherency, explained 1st Lt. Rick Aldred, a B Battery platoon leader.

"Calibration is used to gather historical data, testing different firing powders, determine firing accuracy through muzzle velocity and most importantly, safety," added Aldred. "Crews will become more cohesive and communicate better."

Communication is key for live-fire exercises and more significant for new crews, Aldred added.

"For weeks, crews have begun preparation for this and future gunnery events," he said. "They have had the chance to come together and discipline themselves for greater results."

Good results not only come from a disciplined artilleryman but a cohesive Paladin crew as well.

"Cohesion is discipline," said Sgt. 1st Class Jose Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant with B Battery, 3-82 FA. "Cohesion allows the (Paladin crews) to bring all elements together and shoot accurately."

Accuracy is the defining element if crews are to qualify safely and timely.

"During Table VI (qualification), crews will qualify based on the time it takes deliver an accurate hit and doing so in a safe manner," said Aldred, who is from Springfield, Mo.

Sgt. Joshua Heller, a B Battery howitzer section chief, said he is confident his crew is ready for qualification with hopes of receiving "top gun" -- a Paladin crew receiving the highest marks during Table VI exercises.

"I have every confidence in my crew," Heller added. "Our morale is high, we work together as a team and we have a willingness to do things by the book," Heller added.

"With only a couple weeks for my crew to come together, they have been amazing," said Heller, a Dalhart, Texas, native.

Heller explained one reason his crew works so well together is cross-training.

"Everyone in our crew knows how to operate at every position and perform a mission in those positions from beginning to end," he said.

Aldred agreed adding that without cross training, crews could get hurt and lose tactical advantage if an emergency takes place on the battlefield.

"If every crew member knows each position in the Paladin, there is less risk for a crew to miss a step or command, and one step or command missed could aid in a missed target," he said.

Paladin crews rely on their Fire Direction Center, or FDC, to ensure accurate commands are given and missions are communicated effectively.

"(The FDC) develops a relationship of trust with the crews, and we do that by providing accurate mission data," said 1st Lt. Stoney Grimes, B Battery fire direction officer from from Clarksville, Tenn. "As an eight-man FDC crew, we can support the Paladin crews utilizing digital or verbal commands. By doing our jobs accurately, we help crews qualify successfully."

Crews also focus on maintaining and preparing despite any mechanical challenges that may have arose.

"Everything has gone well, despite early mechanical maintenance issues and small problems with the digital systems, it seems to be coming together for the better," Heller said. "We utilize lessons learned and maintenance on the Paladins is now good."