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Mortars 'rain down from heaven' in Georgia

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 7/29/2003

Story by Capt. Teresa Ovalle

KRTSANISI, Georgia(July 29, 2003) -- KRTSANISI, Georgia - The commander's 'hip-pocket artillery' holds an important role to the Georgian soldiers of the 113th Light Infantry Battalion.

"The mortars sections are a very important part of the battalion," said Capt. George Shengelia, commanding officer, 113th Light Infantry Battalion. "Without the mortars, the battalion has nothing for fire support."

Georgian soldiers master the skills of the Yugoslavian 60 mm mortars and the Soviet block 82 mm mortars during their 100-day training cycle with the Georgia Train and Equip Program.

Mortars play an integral part in the attack as they help to establish the conditions for maneuver, suppress the enemy, fix the enemy in place and provide close supporting fires for the assault.

In the defense, the mortars force armored vehicles to 'button up', break up enemy troop concentrations, reduce the enemy's mobility, and canalize his assault forces into the engagement areas.

The 60 mm and 82 mm mortar sections consist of two squads and three to four fighting positions, depending on the type of mortar, 60 mm or 82 mm.

The squad leader, gunner, assistant gunner (82 mm mortar sections) and ammunitions man are the members of the mortar squad. Each has a specific job to do within the section, but all cross-train to understand the complete mission to ensure continuity and precision of their skills.

The squad leader is responsible for every aspect of command and control of his squad. He ensures they are properly trained and are capable of completing their mission.

"I have a lot of responsibility as the squad leader," stated Junior Sgt. George Talakhadze, 1st section, 82 mm mortars platoon, Headquarters and Support Company. "Our job is to destroy the enemy, my job is to ensure my section does it correctly and safely," he added

The gunner's main focus is to manipulate and place firing data on the sight and lay the mortar for deflection and elevation.

"The gunner has an important job," said Cpl. Tamaz Nachkebia, 1st section, 82 mm mortars platoon, Headquarters and Support Company. "It's my job to ensure the sights are aligned and contain the correct firing data," added Nachkebia.

The ammunition man prepares the ammunition and assists the gunner with shifting and loading the mortar.

"I didn't know anything about mortars before I was assigned as the ammunitions man," said Junior Sgt. George Makaridze, 1st section, 82 mm mortars platoon, Headquarters and Support Company. "It's an important job and I'm confident of my new skills," added the young Georgian soldier.

The sections first learn how and where to place the mortar tube and get the guns into action. This is done through a series of designated commands and 'checks in the block' with in a 90 second timeframe. Within that time, all pieces of the mortar are assembled, from the barrel being locked to the base-plate and the bipod legs being fully extended, to a proper sight picture being established.

From there, small and large deflection changes are made. Not a simple task as the measurements being used are millimeters, and fine-tune adjustments could mean the difference between life and death to the soldiers on the front-line.

"Our soldiers know what to do and are well trained," said Senior Sgt. Jaba Macharashvili, Platoon sergeant, 82 mm mortars platoon, Headquarters and Support Company. "We're ready for combat," stated the confident Senior Sgt.

During the day, the soldiers practice direct lay techniques, which is similar to shooting a rifle, as the soldier uses his eyes to make sure the round is on target and adjusts his sights, as needed.

At night, the mortar-men work on coordinated shoots. One mortar tube is used for illumination rounds and another tube is used for an HE (high explosive) round. Each team drops a round down the tube at the prescribed time. The illumination round lights up the sky as the HE round hits the target.

In addition to the direct lay and direct alignment fire-support package planned for the 113th received during their GTEP experience, the commanding officer requested his soldiers be taught indirect-fire, as well.

"Indirect fire-support is an essential part of the mortars section capability," said Shengelia. "The Marine trainers have the experience, we want the knowledge," he added.

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