Marines fire howitzers in deep snow, frigid conditions

Marines fire howitzers in deep snow, frigid conditions

Marines with Alpha Battery prepare to fire an M777A2 155 mm howitzer Feb. 19 during Artillery Relocation Training Program 12-4 at the Ojojihara Maneuver Area. Photo by LCpl Terry Brady.

OJOJIHARA, MIYAGI, JAPAN (February 28, 2013) As snow and wind blasted the Marines from seemingly all directions, they held steadfast, calmly awaiting the next fire-mission, ready to fire their howitzers at a moment's notice, proving artillery support in any clime or place.

Marines and sailors with Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, conducted artillery live-fire training with M777A2 155 mm howitzers Feb. 19 at the Ojojihara Maneuver Area in Miyagi prefecture, Japan.

The battery is currently assigned to 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF, under the unit deployment program.

Due to the harsh climate and terrain, the battery was able to gain experience in unfamiliar conditions while sustaining proficiency in artillery live-fire, according to Capt Christopher Ross, commanding officer of Alpha Battery.

"Being from North Carolina, the battery is not used to training in environments this cold," said Ross. "We are learning a lot about how to operate in cold weather here, so it's a good thing that we are heading out to different places while assigned to III MEF."

The battery divided into two platoons during firing, allowing one platoon to maneuver to a different gun position while the other platoon maintained fire at the previous position, so there were no breaks in fire during movement.

"It is more efficient to have two separate platoons because they can cover more ground and provide continual support to infantry units," said SSgt. Mohamed S. Salim, the battery gunnery sergeant for Alpha Battery.

In each platoon, section chiefs led their Marines and carried out orders given by the fire direction center.

"Small-unit leadership has been the key to our success at Camp Lejeune and is the key to our progress here," said Ross. "It's because of our sergeants and corporals that our training has been successful."

During night firing and movements, Marines maintained strict discipline by using limited light resources and minimum sound communication.

"Artillery is about shooting, moving and communicating efficiently without compromising our position," said LCpl Dakota L. Harrod, an assistant section chief for the battery.

The Marines dug in during the night fire to provide the battery with defensive positions.

"All of the pits from each gun position are connected with each other to provide the battery with 360-degree defense," said Harrod.

Throughout the training, the howitzers and vehicles experienced challenges due to low temperatures and inclement weather.

"It's hard most of the time for the vehicles to move around," said Harrod. "We've never had to use snow chains for the vehicles to move between gun positions.

"The weather not only tested the howitzers and the Marines' ability to fire under unfamiliar conditions — it also gave the artillery mechanics an opportunity to develop their skill-sets as well."

Despite the conditions, the Marines were able to complete their appointed tasks quickly and effectively.

"The Marines have been maintaining the standard they set at Camp Lejeune because of their high morale and desire to continue training," said Salim. "Marines with high morale work harder and are more effective."

Alpha Battery is scheduled to continue artillery live-fire training throughout the week. The battery will also develop individual skills at a small-arms range at the conclusion of the training. 

"Artillery is a specialty that functions 24/7, and we accomplish our missions wherever and whenever they need to be done," said Ross. "This will be a field operation the Marines will definitely remember."

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