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First Fires Brigade now in theater

By Sgt. 1st Class Jerry Malec

BAGHGDAD (Army News Service, Jan. 13, 2006) – With the quiet uncasing of their colors Jan. 8, Soldiers in the Fires Brigade marked a new day in the role of division and corps-level fire support.

Part of the 4th Infantry Division, the Fires Brigade now flies its colors outside its Camp Liberty headquarters.

“This was a historic occasion, signifying the first deployment of a fires brigade into the combat theater,” said Col. Allen Batschelet, brigade commander.

The Fires Brigade formerly held all of the 4th Inf. Div.’s artillery assets and was known as the Division Artillery.

When the division modularized in December 2004, most of DIVARTY’s direct fire assets were dispersed to other brigades.

New brigade part of Army Transformation

The Fires Brigade officially stood up in June. At that time, it gained a support battalion, the 589th Brigade Support Battalion; a communications company, the 324th Network Support Company; and a target-acquisition battery, Battery A, 26th Field Artillery Regiment.

The brigade’s independence allows it to support other divisions as well as 4th Inf. Div., said Batschelet.

Currently one battery is supporting a Marine unit and another is supporting the 101st Airborne Division.

Soldiers say they are proud to serve in the newly formed brigade.

“We’re able to do more in less time,” observed Sgt. 1st Class Dwight Richard, operations non-commissioned officer in charge, Fires Bde.

Richard, who deployed to the first Operation Iraqi Freedom when brigade was still DIVARTY, said he is proud of what the unit has accomplished since its conversion in a short period of time.

“I saw the unit lose direct fire units, gain support units,” said Richard. “I saw it become what it is today.”

One of the Fires Brigade’s newest assets is the guided multiple-launch rocket system, or MLRS, employed by the 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery.

Brigade developing new procedures

Use of field artillery in counter-insurgency operations is a relatively new concept, said Batschelet, and procedures are constantly being updated to meet the demands of combat.

Weapons systems are being used in different ways than originally anticipated because “as the enemy adapts, we adapt,” said Batschelet.

While the Army irons out the role of artillery in the newest warfare concept, the 4th Inf. Div.’s Fires Bde. will be setting the example, Batschelet said.

Other divisions will be assigned fires brigades as they reach the “ready and available” phase of modularity, said Lt. Col. Samuel White in “The Fires Brigade: Not Your Daddy’s FFA HQ,” Field Artillery Magazine, November/December 2005.

“Some think it’s still a concept – but it’s a reality,” said Richard. “We made it happen.”

2-20th FA takes over Q-West

Two days earlier, Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery, of the 4ID Fires Brigade, took charge of the mission at Q-West Airbase.

In a small but formal ceremony inside the Q-West gymnasium Jan. 6, the transfer of authority became official from the 3rd Battalion, 13th Field Artillery, Fort Sill, Okla., to the “Deep Strike” battalion slated to take the reigns of providing ground-based precision artillery fires to Multi-National Coalition forces operating in northern Iraq.

This includes non-standard missions from escorting convoys, providing a quick-reaction force when necessary, to base support operations, leaders said.

18th Airborne Corps Arty welcomes newcomers

"For more than 25 years now, we've been targets — the United States, Soldiers and civilians,” said Brig. Gen Peter Vangjel, commander, 18th Airborne Corps Artillery, who spoke to the artillerymen after the changing of the guard.

“You can go back to 1979 with the attack on the U.S. embassy in Iran," Vangjel said. "In 1983, we had the attack on the Marine barracks in the Embassy in Beirut, and the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York in 1993, and ultimately, September 11,” continued Vangjel, who applauded the efforts of 13th FA Soldiers while welcoming aboard the 2-20 FA.

“I know you are not here for the money; you are not here for the glory; but you are here for your country and there are many that appreciate that even though you do not see it everyday in the newspapers back in the states,” said Vangiel.

During the ceremony, both artillery battalions joined together in a moment of silence to honor all service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war against terrorism.

“The Army is different. The dynamics are different. Your experiences will allow you to adapt very quickly, which is critical to what we're doing in Iraq today,” said Lt. Col. William Miracle, commander, 3-13 FA to the Deep Strike soldiers, many whom have experienced combat during the first Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Now we leave the mission to Task Force 2-20 with a sense of confidence, pride and gratitude. The Deep Strike battalion is assuming the mission with an outstanding attitude, and the soldiers are well prepared for the mission ahead,” continued Miracle.

Outgoing troops: Teamwork got us thru

“Teamwork was what got us through the last year,” stressed Sgt. Jacob Agulier, senior resources sergeant, 3-13 FA. “We respected each other as professionals, and we knew we all had a mission to do, and we stuck together despite 12 hour shifts and all.”

“We're glad to be a part of the team, and we're looking forward to contributing and making a difference in the mission at hand,” said Lt. Col. Mark Johnson, commander, 2-20 FA. “We appreciate the efforts of the Red Dragons as our units worked together to ensure a smooth transition, and we wish you well in your journey home – and we thank you for a job well done.”

Months before their deployment, the Deep Strike soldiers honed their combat skills during major training exercises back in the U.S., such as Operation Desert Strike at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

“It's going to be a long 12 months, but I'm sure we're up to the task,” said 1st Sgt. Robert Johnson, Battery B, 2-20 FA, a combat veteran. “My main goal is to bring all of my soldiers back in one piece.”

“Just keeping busy and working,” said Pfc. Christopher Nicewonger, Battery B, 2-20 FA, following the ceremony. “That's mainly what's going to get me through the next year here.”

“We're ready. The NCOs are ready. The Soldiers are ready, and now it's just a matter of taking care of the mission,” said Sgt. 1st Class Edgar Fuentes, operations non-commissioned officer in charge, 2-20 FA, as he compared the Deep Strike mission in Iraq to that of their training event at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

“Here, you know there is a real target,” continued Fuentes. “We'll actually be helping to stop the enemy from employing improvised explosive devices.”

“You may ask, is it all worth it here?” said Vangjel. “If we force them to fight here, instead of on the home front, we're protecting everything that we hold near and dear to each of us.”

(Editor’s note: Sgt. 1st Class Jerry Malec serves as the Fires Brigade PAO, 4ID.)

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