Photo courtesy Fort Bliss
OROGRANDE RANGE COMPLEX, N.M. – In the vast expanse of the Orogrande Range Complex, an assemblage of uniformed personnel and military tactical vehicles comprise of the scene.
Despite the frigid climate on the morning of January 4, 2019, Army National Guardsmen of Bravo Battery and Forward Support Company, 1-147th Field Artillery Battalion, Watertown, South Dakota, stood outside in eager anticipation to witness an awe-inspiring spectacle.
Suddenly, a deafening roar temporarily disrupts the stillness of the desert landscape. Volleys of rockets have been launched from a group of M270A1 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, propelling in convergence toward the sun-drenched sky.
This training event was one of the 1-147th FAB’s pre-mobilization exercises conducted to strengthen their readiness and lethality postures.
“We are here for mobilization validation,” said 1st Lt. Jessie Park, operations officer for Bravo Battery, 1-147th FAB. “The South Dakota Army National Guard is one of two MLRS battalions in the United States, so it’s really important that we keep up on our platforms and training.”
The above-mentioned volley of rockets is called Time on Target (ToT), a critical artillery technique in which an area or target is completely saturated by munitions. ToT is one of several tasks performed by the 1-147th FAB, under direct scrutiny and evaluation by Observer Controller/Trainers of the 5th Armored Brigade, Fort Bliss, Texas.
“We did three types of fire missions: Fire When Ready, At My Command…and then ToT,” said Sgt. Dillyn Thompson, MLRS crewmember and seven-year veteran of 1-147th FAB. “It’s a little different this year, the way they have us doing this live fire. We have (the MLRS vehicles) all lined up, with four to eight rockets in a row.”
According to Sgt. 1st Class James Meyer, master gunner for Bravo Battery, 1-147th FAB, the M270A1 MLRS can launch over a dozen types of disparate munitions.
“We can shoot multiple rockets from the MLRS, depending on the setup and whatever mission requirements are, such as M28/M28A1 training rounds, M30/M31 guided rockets, and ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) guided missiles,” Meyer said.
Thompson further elaborated on the destructive power of the MLRS, touching upon the weapon platform’s moniker: “Grid Square Removal System.”
“The maximum load is 12 rockets or two missiles total,” Thompson said. “If we have a full load of rockets, we can take out an entire grid square on a map.”
These validation and military rehearsal exercises (MRXs) have been vital to the preparation for the 1-147th FAB’s upcoming mobilization.
“Under Operation Atlantic Resolve, we’re going to participate in exercises in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Lithuania, and Latvia,” said 1st Sgt. Dusty Kiner, First Sergeant for Bravo Battery, 1-147th FAB. “Whoever wants assistance or wants artillery support for their exercise, they will call us, and we go out to that location.”
Taken into consideration the joint nature of this deployment, Kiner asserts that mission requirements principally depend on multinational collaboration.
“The way we understand it for our first exercise, we will be falling under a Canadian DIVARTY (Division Artillery),” Kiner said. “We’ll be acting as the DIVARTY support for the Canadian division. It’s kind of a new experience for us, as we will be functioning multi-national and multi-echelon all the way through the entire phase.”
For junior enlisted Soldiers like Spc. Micah Miller, an automated logistical specialist for the FSC, 1-147th FAB, these training exercises have ventured outside the proverbial comfort zone.
“One of the biggest challenges is this different climate and terrain here,” Miller said. “There’s a lot more mountains here than there back in South Dakota, which is a lot flatter.”
Nevertheless, Thompson stated that he and his unit have been primed and ready for this occasion.
“I was in Saber Guardian in Romania, where I was able to jump in with Alpha Battery out of Aberdeen, South Dakota, and go over there with them,” Thompson said. “But with this mobilization, I think that we can get a little more in-depth, which will be nice in being able to train with other countries. It’s all pretty new to me, and I’m excited about it.”
Bravo Battery/FSC elements of the 1-147th FAB will sustain their pre-mobilization training scenarios until their eventual flight to Eastern Europe.
“We’re looking forward to moving out to Eastern Europe and making this stuff happen and get some rockets downrange in Europe,” Kiner said. “Supposedly, we are going to be the first heavy MLRS unit in Eastern Europe since 9/11. We’re going to help write new doctrine as to how heavy artillery operates in Europe. This is a cool mission for us.”