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Singaporeans get HIMARS qualified

Nov 24, 2010

By James Brabenec, Fort Sill Cannoneer

FORT SILL, Okla. -- Singaporean armed forces personnel returned to Fort Sill Oct. 6 for Exercise Daring Warrior to validate and qualify their first High Mobility Artillery Rocket System battery.

On Nov. 19, the two countries concluded the training with morning and afternoon live-fire exercises. The morning saw more than nine rockets fill a portion of Quanah Range with smoke as brilliant flashes of light trailed the rockets streaking toward the impact area.

"Our entire army was excited to come to Fort Sill and qualify our first HIMARS battery," said Col. Tan Chong Lee, Singaporean exercise director. "Everything went well, in part, due to Fort Sill providing us great training facilities and support."

Soldiers from B Battery, 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery mentored and trained the new HIMARS operators. During the Friday morning live-fire, they fired off six rockets to show the system's multi-launch capability.

"What makes HIMARS such a unique platform is its ability to deliver Fires so rapidly, reload and fire again within 10 minutes or less," said Lt. Col. Robert Picht, 1st-14th FA commander. "It gives tremendous versatility to the battlefield commander."

Picht added good communication was vital throughout the exercise. Participants employed rigid rehearsals, almost in a scripted fashion to ensure everyone stayed on the same page. Armed with this template, he said the live-fire was second nature to all.

"This was a great training operation, because it's rare to get the opportunity to train and shoot with a multi-national partner, then add in the join aspect with the Marine Corps," said Picht, who called it a win-win situation. "This week I got to see how much we have in common -- how we do our planning and coordination. There really is a lot of similarities between the two armies in how we do things."

A five-man U.S. Marine Corps firepower control team from the 5th Air Naval Gun Liaison Company in Okinawa participated in the exercise; their mission is to act as a liaison between the Marines and foreign armies. Although they worked with Singaporean and Army observers here, in a real-world situation they would also coordinate and control air power, ground artillery and naval gun fire for an operation.

For an island nation slightly smaller than New York City, Fort Sill's open expanses provided the space needed to complete this training mission. Lee said Singapore received its HIMARS launchers in August, and so this was their first opportunity to train. However, the post provides the Singaporean military more than just a great place to train. Lee said the operational experience and institutional knowledge of U.S. Army Soldiers provided a great learning experience for his troops.

"Being a combined exercise there were issues to address, but many were resolved along the way, and there was excellent understanding between all participants throughout," said Lee. Both leaders emphasized the multi-national aspect of responding to threats and said these exercises keep dialogue open between coalition partners sharing tactics, techniques and procedures to ensure a more cohesive response.

Capt. John Bertholf, B Battery 1st-14th FA, commander, said his Soldiers began the exercise advising and mentoring the new Singaporeans HIMARS crew members. He said he was most impressed with their personnel and looks forward to more opportunities to train together.

"Every Soldier in our battery who worked with the Singaporean army has gained an appreciation for their professionalism," said the captain. "It was an honor to train along side them."

Lee said the Singaporeans intend to come back again next year for more training on HIMARS and to further develop their operating procedures. He said they will link up with the Field Artillery School for the master gunners course to reinforce their competencies on this weapons system.

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