|By Tech. Sgt. Jon La Due, Wisconsin National Guard
Public Affairs Office
After more than 10 years of continuous deployments, Wisconsin National
Guard Soldiers continue to train and maintain their skills and
proficiencies at stateside bases during annual training.
Training held at Fort McCoy in late June by the Guard’s 1st Battalion,
121st Field Artillery focused on perfecting the coordination and firing
techniques needed to use the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS)
to support the unit’s mission.
Crews from the 1st Battalion,
121st Field Artillery shoot a rocket from a High Mobility
Artillery Rocket System as part of their annual training at Fort
McCoy. (Contributed photo)
For some Soldiers in the unit, the training also was a chance to hone
their skills for deployment. Bravo Battery of Plymouth, Wis., is
expected to deploy later this fall to conduct a field artillery mission
in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"We shoot, move and communicate — that's what we train on during annual
training," said Maj. Paul Kapinski, the battalion's operations officer
assigned to Headquarters Battery.
The HIMARS battalion — consisting of the Milwaukee-based Headquarters
Battery, Bravo Battery, and C Battery and the 108th Forward Support
Company in Sussex, Wis. — worked together to accomplish eight missions,
firing 30 training rockets across Fort McCoy.
Fire missions originate at the brigade or battalion level and are sent
to the battery and platoon level. The launcher vehicles pull out of
hiding places to fire one of three types of missions: "on my command,"
"when ready," and "time-on-target." Then it's off to a new hiding place
until the next fire mission comes down.
To meet the annual certification requirement, HIMARS units must
successfully complete tasks down to the individual launcher and ammo
section. This year, however, over the course of the June training and an
earlier training session in April, the unit achieved battalion
Helping the artillery crews in the field is the 108th Forward Support
Company's job, working behind the scenes to provide fuel, food and ammo
to all HIMARS crews.
"We're pretty much on call for everything," said Sgt. Ashley Mullis, a
heavy vehicle driver for the 108th. "If it wasn't for the forward
support, they wouldn't be able to complete their mission. That's a big
sense of accomplishment for us."
1st Sgt. Arthur Pronschinske, the senior enlisted leader for the 108th,
said working toward a common goal is what drill and annual training is
all about. "It just hones their skills ... coming together as a larger
picture," Pronschinske said. "They are a deploying unit, and we want to
support them so they can accomplish their tasks for deployment."
The last time the battalion deployed in 2006, it was to perform a convoy
escort mission. Soldiers in Bravo Battery are looking forward to finally
deploy using the skills they devote most of their time to perfect.
"I don't believe the Wisconsin artillery has ever been used as an
artillery unit in a contingency plan," Kapinski said. "It could be
pretty historic for the battery."