Marine reservists and soldiers from across the Army trained, tested and verified the capability to communicate fire missions to one another from long distances this past weekend at Fort Stewart.
Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division Artillery (DIVARTY), 19th Brigade Coordination Detachment at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, as well as Marines from K Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, participated in the multi-component and joint exercise called Odin’s Thunder.
What sets this exercise apart is that not only is it the first time 3rd Infantry DIVARTY has conducted an exercise like this, but it also places a Marine battery under the command of the Army to coordinate fire missions on a target.
For the exercise, the fire missions originated in Germany with 19th BCD, then traveled to the Marine and Army units in America, who confirmed and fired on those targets on Fort Stewart.
The firing batteries for Odin’s Thunder consisted of Marine reservists from Huntsville, Alabama, using the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System to fire rockets while Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Infantry DIVARTY shot with the M-109 Paladins, a
155 mm self-propelled howitzer.
Both of these artillery elements fire to different distances, giving commanders the ability to hit a range of targets in a large area of operations.
Capt. Paul Taglianetti, a 3rd Infantry DIVARTY liaison officer and planner, used the Crimean crisis to describe an example of when two artillery components would be used simultaneously.
“DIVARTY is able to deploy to that location, and we basically pull them in and (are) able to identify a target of opportunity and then actually choose which unit to fire,” he said.
The exercise proves that DIVARTY can “deploy anywhere in the world, they can connect with anybody and provide timely and accurate fires,” said Capt. Jeremy Flake, the commander of Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Infantry DIVARTY.
On the other side of the training area from 1-41 Field Artillery and its paladins were the Marines with the artillery rocket system. The reservists were set up with Army communications to receive fire missions from their battalion, which was receiving it from Germany. Once the battery received the fire mission, the Marines verified that it passed all the safety checks in order to fire a rocket.
“The (artillery rocket) system is so sophisticated that it will actually tell you, based off the grid you gave it, if the shot is safe,” said 1st Sgt. Ronnie Dickey with K Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment. “And if the shot comes back unsafe, the system will not allow you to fire the rocket.
“The Marines are obviously proficient with that, but now we added a new step with these guys communicating with an Army command to be able to use that technology. So, pretty neat,” he said.
One of the rocket-system’s crews fired two reduced-range rockets Saturday, then waited for the howitzers from 1-41 Field Artillery to finish firing before shooting their last two rockets. Communicating between the different military units was one of the biggest challenges of the exercise.
“That’s kind of the big thing, was getting those systems to talk,” said Capt. Paul Taglianetti, who was involved from the beginning on making the exercise come to fruition.
The communication network in Germany had to be created for the joint exercise to work.
“So that’s the big thing, too, was the infrastructure was not in place,” Taglianetti said. “We had to develop it.”
Soldiers had to connect different networks and then the Marines had to be able to connect into it.
“It kind of shows the ability of DIVARTY to deploy to a location and assume units not completely under them … and be able to pass missions to them and just have the interoperability between the different units because, typically, it’s not something that we do on a regular basis,” Taglianetti said.
While proving that joint -ommunication capability is important, passing down the knowledge learned from the exercise probably was one of the biggest takeaways for both the Army and the Marines.
Sgt. Gerald Bradbury, launcher chief with K Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, was one of the first Marines to participate in an exercise like this. He said the training was awesome.
“I’m going to take that and pass it to my junior Marines, and that shows that we can actually do this. And we’ve proved it now,” he said.