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'Long Knife' Soldiers sharpen skills at Destiny Range

June 2, 2011

By Spc. Angel Turner, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade Public Affairs, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division-North

CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq, June 2 2011 -- Soldiers assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, sharpened their skills during a combined arms life fire exercise at Destiny Range, May 28, 2011.

Cavalry scouts, field artillerymen, mortar men and forward observers conducted the exercise to maintain proficiency on indirect fire weapons as they lead Iraqi troops on similar training.

"Garry Owen" Soldiers of 2nd Bn., 7th Cav. Regt., fired 120mm mortar rounds from an M1064 Mortar Carrier to targets nearly 1,800 meters away.

Several miles away at Contingency Operating Site Marez, "Black Dragon" artillery crews assigned to 5th Battalion, 82 Field Artillery Regiment fired howitzers onto Destiny Range as forward observers at the range monitored the impacts.

When the artillery rounds stopped, Gary Owen Soldiers echoed back with several more volleys from the 120mm mortars as the units attacked "enemy" positions on the expansive range.

Each of the Soldiers worked together to defeat the simulated enemy and provide indirect fire support for ground troops.

"If any Soldier needs help with immediate suppression, cover fire, or cover and concealment, they can call on the mortarmen to give them fire support to achieve the desired effect and get them out of harm's way," said Spc. Christopher Hunthrop, a mortar man assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Bn., 7th Cav. Regt.

"This (combined arms life fire exercise) gives us more hands-on training and helps make us more efficient in our jobs," Hunthrop said.

Forward observers provided mortar Soldiers with locations of targets to engage. After adjusting the mortar tube and preparing to fire, Soldiers dropped the shells into the tube and took cover.

Seconds later, a loud pop echoed through the air followed by a plume of smoke as the round launched from the mortar tube, trailed through the air and impacted in the designated area.

This exercise helps Soldiers stay fresh as mortar men, said Sgt. Eric Skinner, a mortar crew member assigned to HHC, 2nd Bn., 7th Cav. Regt.

"It's a perishable skill," said Skinner. "If you don't do it enough times throughout the year, you'll forget how to do it."

Skinner, a squad leader, said he focused on ensuring the mortar tube was accurately positioned and that Soldiers did not shake the tube when dropping the shells into the tube.

"It has to be a smooth launch so it is accurate," said Skinner.

After honing their indirect fire skills, Skinner and fellow 4th AAB Soldiers returned to Contingency Operating Site Marez, where they teach Iraqi soldiers the same skills at the adjacent Ghuzlani Warrior Training Center as part of Tadreeb al Shamil, which is Arabic for All-Inclusive Training.

Tadreeb al Shamil is an Iraqi Ground Forces Command initiative to modernize the army's combat capabilities and train soldiers as part of cohesive units.

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