Soldiers assigned to B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery fine turned their skills on the M109A6 Paladin Dec. 4 during a battalion-level certification and live-fire exercise at Fort Sill.
The effectiveness of training is measured by the Army every six months when gun sections participate in standardized certification tests to remain eligible to perform live-fire gunnery missions.
The Paladin certification was a three-part process. It consisted of Paladin Table I-IV, completed in garrison; Paladin Table V, which consisted of dry-fire missions normally conducted in the motorpool; and Paladin Table VI, which is conducting live-fire missions.
To complete the certification, gun sections in B Battery had to pass the artillery skill, gunner's and gunner's written tests. The fire direction center (FDC) also completed a similar evaluation to become certified to send fire missions to the gun sections to fire live rounds. The FDC's evaluation included completing the manual safety test where Soldiers were required to score a minimum of 90 percent.
During the evaluation, all sections were assessed on their ability to meet fire mission processing times, have no safety incidents and adhere to brigade and battalion standard operation procedures.
"Fire mission, fire mission, fire mission," is a radio call well known throughout the field artillery world, which translates to: It's time to get down to business and put hot steel downrange. The fire mission comes first from the observer, to the battalion FDC, then down to the battery FDC before it is transmitted to the gun section. The FDC then inputs the data into its computer system and afterward transmits it to the Paladin section members.
"Being the gunner in the Paladin to me is the most enjoyable job," said Spc. Garry Drake, a gunner assigned to B/2-5th FA. "Being the gunner is the person who pulls the lanyard and puts rounds downrange."
An artilleryman's ability to compute and shoot rounds safely and on target is not acquired easily. Soldiers must train and hone their skills to be effective at their craft. Training is a continuous process which consists of dry-fire exercises throughout the year.
"It's always fun to come out to the field and get to shoot live rounds," said Spc. Sam Carroll, a B/2-5th FA Paladin driver. "It has been a while since the battery had shot live rounds."
The Paladin section chief is responsible for all operations within his section. The chief is typically the most experienced and senior ranking service member assigned to the section.
"I've been in the Army for eight years with one of those years as a section chief in Korea," said Staff Sgt. Jeke Langford, a B/2-5th FA section chief. "Being a section chief in a Paladin unit, you have to be able to handle multiple tasks at one time."
Langford's gun section which consists of Sgt. Clinton Davis and Spcs. Garry Drake, Sam Carroll, Luis Cruz, Jeff Wesch and Levi Owen got first time go's on all their certification tables which allowed them to put hot steel downrange safely with no injuries.
Article by Sgt. Nathaniel Foster, 214th Fires Brigade