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Oklahoma artillery unit trains with MLRS at Fort McCoy

Apr 22, 2010

By Sgt. David Chapman, 75th Fires Brigade Public Affairs Office

FORT McCOY, Wis. -- The sounds of rockets and engines reverberated in the early morning hours, but the noise was not echoing off the Oklahoma Mountain ranges as normal. Instead the echoes rang over the Wisconsin countryside.

The 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery Regiment (2-18 FAR) packed all of its Soldiers and equipment for a deployment exercise to Fort McCoy, Wis., where they conducted Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) fire missions, deployment operations and ran the 15th Transportation Company through a mission readiness exercise in preparation for its deployment.

Fort McCoy's 46,000 acres of training area was home to more than 450 "Mission Ready" Soldiers and required the two units to operate strictly as if they were deployed and self-sufficient. But that was not the only reason for the unit to make the 960-mile journey to the northern United States.

"What we can do at Fort McCoy that can't be done at a lot of places is actually exercise MLRS tactics, where our launchers can hide in the trees, receive a fire mission and then roll out into this big wide open area and shoot rounds," said Lt. Col. Stephen Wertz, 2-18 FAR commander. "I like coming here, and I wouldn't have come if I didn't think it was going to be good. We like the facilities here."

During the month-long exercise the battalion conducted its MLRS missions to maintain vital skills.

"We are trying to get back into our field artillery mission because in the deployments they have not been artillery," said Capt. Matthew Bender, A Battery 2-18 FAR commander. "In field artillery these skills are perishable and they are important. When you do this job you have to be spot on. We have to make sure we can fire our missions in support of the guys in the fight."

But the exercise was not just about training up for field artillery missions. It also was to assist in preparing members of the battalion's transportation company for its upcoming deployment.

"We have been helping them train and run them through their qualification exercises," Wertz said. "They actually convoyed from Fort Sill to Fort McCoy carrying some of our vehicles much like they will do in Iraq."

Being away from home for a month can be trying for a Soldier, but members of the 2-18 FAR use their unit pride as motivation to drive them through the days until they can return to their Families.

"There is nothing better than Mission Ready Soldiers. They think they are good 'cause they are," said Wertz. "We have instilled a sense of excellence in them and they know they are the best."

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