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Artillery now `king of roads' in Iraq

By Master Sgt. Lek Mateo

CAMP SCANIA, Iraq (Army News Service, Jan. 12, 2006) -- The field artillery is commonly known as “the king of battle,” but artillerymen of Battery C, 3rd Battalion, 13th Field Artillery are more like “kings of the road” as they cruise down the highways of Iraq in heavily armed Humvees, protecting supply convoys from insurgent attacks.

Members of the multiple launch rocket system, or MLRS unit — which is based at Fort Sill, Okla., and assigned to the 56th Brigade Combat Team of the Texas Army National Guard’s 36th Infantry Division -- knew in advance that they were not going to be performing the field artillery mission before they deployed to Iraq, and have learned to adapt to a new and challenging mission.

First Lt. Jeremy L. Pankratz, a platoon leader in the 3/13th, said the traditional mission of the field artillery is to destroy, neutralize or suppress the enemy through cannon, missile or rocket fire. He pointed out that artillerymen are used to quickly adjusting fire on the battlefield because time is of the essence and Soldiers’ lives are on the line.

Pankratz said his men would rather be performing their artillery mission, but as Soldiers they will perform the mission they are assigned because the job has to be done.

“The mission that we were given is definitely very important — especially when you see the large amount of supplies and fuel that we protect,” Pankratz said.

Sgt. Gilbert P. Cox said the unit received a lot of good training back at Fort Sill and later in Kuwait — training they are using in Iraq.

Spc. Justin P. McAllister is accustomed to maneuvering the large and boxy M-270A1 tracked MLRS vehicle across rough terrain, but now he finds himself behind the wheel of an armored M-1114 Humvee, negotiating busy roads pock-marked with potholes and craters made by roadside bombs.

McAllister said that driving in Iraq can be very stressful and tiring, especially when they travel the long routes and are always thinking about being hit by an improvised explosive device hidden along the roadway.

The young Soldier knows first-hand how dangerous the mission is, having encountered several IEDs during the short time that he’s been in Iraq. He said teamwork and confidence in their training and equipment are the keys to the Soldiers’ survival on the perilous roads in Iraq.

“We have to rely on everyone on our team to pull their weight and do their jobs so that we can all go home together,” McAllister said.

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