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`Glory Guns' light up Iraq night

By Spc. Jimmy D. Lane Jr.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (Army News Service, April 28, 2005) -- A battery of the 1/41st Field Artillery has been lighting up the night in support of Operation Forsyth Park and the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior.

“Basically we were given a mission to supply illumination coverage,” said Sgt. 1st Class Mark Lowry, a platoon sergeant with B Battery, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment.

Illumination coverage lights up the area for ground troops so they have more situational awareness, Lowry said. “We were taking back the night from the insurgents,” he said.

In the middle of the night, a loud explosion ripped through the darkness. A few seconds later, and a few kilometers away, the ground was lit up by a light in the sky. Enemies who were depending on the cover of darkness now had no place to hide.

“Tonight we are going to fire two different kinds of rounds,” said 1st Lt. John Dorffeld, a platoon leader with B Battery 1/41 FA. “We have two guns we are taking with us, and each one will fire in a different direction, giving us a good lateral spread.”

The illumination round has several different purposes, the most important being the identification of enemy targets, Lowry said.

“We had a good function of all the illumination rounds, with chief coverage of a grid area. Basically we have an observer out there with sight of six or eight kilometers,” Lowry said. “When the round bursts, he uses it to identify targets.

”We also use the round as a distraction for the enemy. The enemy will look up and watch the round,” Lowry said. “It also gives us an idea of who is doing wrong. You can’t really hear the round until it is right over you, and by then it is too late for them to disguise what they are doing.”

The artillery Soldiers got the intelligence for their area of fire from a group of special scouts who observe the area well before the fire mission.

“We were firing on predetermined targets,” Lowry said. “Our fire support element got information from the (long range surveillance detachment) that there was high insurgent activity in the area.”

After the illumination rounds, 1/41st tested 15 rocket-assisted projectiles. A RAP goes beyond what a regular round could reach due to the rocket propulsion.

“It will go two or three kilometers further, depending on the size of the charge, which increases our range,” Lowry said. “Not only does this keep our Soldiers safer, but it saves time on having to move forward to engage targets that under normal circumstances would be out of our range.”

Since the artillery rounds are so expensive, the platoon leader has to account for all the rounds before packing up, Dorffeld said. “We have to send a message in to higher up before we can leave.

They want to make sure everything went smoothly. I don’t want to go back with any rounds.”

The platoon command team considered the exercise a success for several different reasons.

“It was a very successful night,” Lowry said. “For one it was a different operation that we don’t normally get to do. Our main mission is terrain denial and counter fire. It was a morale booster for the Soldiers.”

There is much preparation that goes into a fire mission, Lowry said, in order to avoid damage to anything that is not expected to be in the impact area of the rounds.

“Basically we are trying to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people,” Lowry said. “We have to go out there and observe an area and make sure we don’t kill a guy tying to repair an irrigation ditch. We are trying to make allies, not enemies.

“If we make the whole country suffer, we aren’t going to be able to accomplish that,” Lowry said. “Neither can we do that if we are causing damage to Iraqi property.”

(Editor’s note: Spc. Jimmy D. Lane Jr. serves as a public affairs specialist for a brigade combat team in Iraq.)

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