It starts off pretty innocuous – a little “Thunk!” as Pfc. Jordan Hayes drops in a long-range training mortar round into a 1064A3 120-mm mortar tube. But moments later, the area around him erupts with sound, as the round leaves the tube on its journey to its target – up to a 7,200-meter distant.
Hayes, assistant mortar gunner, Troop C, 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, along with other Soldiers from the unit were recently in the field at Fort Riley’s training areas conducting a semi-annual live-fire certification exercise. The exercise helped prepare the unit for its upcoming rotation to the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.
“The goal is to have (the Soldiers) able to execute all tasks to standard, most specifically, be able to occupy an area within the time standard and then be able to get, with a one-round adjustment, effects on target, and then timely and accurate fires with a hip-shoot mode,” said Capt. Terence Robinson, commander, Troop C, 5th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt. “That is really the point of any certification.”
One of a cavalry squadron’s main responsibilities is to conduct advance reconnaissance for the heavier maneuver elements in a brigade, so mortarmen in a cavalry unit have to be able to move quickly. Mounting a mortar on an M113 tactical vehicle allows them to do this.
“Mounting a mortar on the ground is a lot easier. It is cleaner, though it is tougher for the 120-mm guns because it’s a very heavy system,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jay Bennett, mortar section sergeant, Troop A, 5th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt. “But, at the same time, the track (vehicle) gives us the mobility and the capability to keep up with our mounted counterparts in the reconnaissance element.”
The section sergeant, his driver and gun crews provide a two-gun section, like the one the squadron trained on, with a total of 12 personnel.
Each gun is serviced by an ammunition bearer; a driver, who also serves as assistant ammunition bearer; an assistant gunner; gunner; and a fire direction center noncommissioned officer.
The process of conducting a fire mission can be broken down into three parts, Bennett said. The first is called the initiation of fires.
“They call us, and we do a clearance of fire through our troops, squadrons or whatever the case may be,” he said. “Once we’ve got it cleared that there are no friendly forces on the ground, fire direction comes up with the datum using coordinate geometry. I know we all loved that back in high school, and (it) breaks it down for the guns.”
The mortar crew then indexes the data it just received onto a sight, if in degraded mode, or with the aid of a computer system.
“Once it’s set up, rounds are sent up from the ammunition bearer and then fired onto the impact area,” Bennett said. “The forward observers adjust it from there to where he wants it, and once it is on target, we fire for effect.”
A fully functioning and well-trained mortar section can be an invaluable asset for a commander on the ground.
“All indirect fires are based upon timeliness and accuracy, it’s just that mortars get there a little quicker, even though they sacrifice a little range from conventional field artillery,” Robinson said. “But (they provide) much faster response time from call for fire to effects on target.”
By Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire
2nd ABCT Public Affairs
Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire | 2ND ABCT
Pvt. Richard Blair, ammunition bearer, right, hands Pfc. Jordan Hayes, assistant mortar gunner, left, both with Troop C, 5th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt., a long-range training round during a live-fire certification exercise Nov. 29.