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July 27, 2012

Training

Wisconsin Guard conducts HIMARS training, ready for future

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.
PHOTO: Crews from the 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery shoot a rocket from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. Contributed photo
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 certification.

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."

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