| National Guard personnel from the 1st Battalion, 126th Field Artillery, headquartered in Kenosha, Wis., used the second portion of their split annual training at Fort McCoy to hone their firing and other associated skills.
Maj. Antonio Pascal, chief of training for the 1st, 126th, said the unit fires Paladins about four times a year at Fort McCoy. The latest firing session ran from July 30 through Aug. 7.
"Unit members have to be ready to fire in any (weather) conditions except for lightning," Pascal said.
Spc. David Cohodes, a gunner with the 1st, 126th, prepares for a fire mission.
(Photo by Rob Schuette)
Capt. Craig Van Kirk, the commander of Bravo Battery of the 1st, 126th, said unit members also qualified with individual weapons - M-16 rifles, 9 mm pistols and M-2, .50 caliber machines.
Staff Sgt. Bruce Eidson, the crew chief for the 1st, 126th Bravo Battery, said the training helped him keep sharp with all the technology employed with the Paladin system.
"The computers know where you are and where the enemy is," Eidson said. "When you get a fire mission, the computer helps ensure you get the enemy."
The changes since he began with the unit have been dramatic, he said. When the unit had fixed howitzers, the procedure to conduct emergency firing when the equipment was on the move meant the unit had to stop, turn the howitzers in the right direction and have personnel on the ground to direct the fire.
With the Paladins, the unit still has to stop its vehicles, but the turret can be rotated using computerized systems in a 360-degree field to engage an enemy, he said. No one from the crew has to get out and be exposed to battlefield dangers.
Paladin crew members from Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 126th Field Artillery wait inside the equipment for a fire mission.
(Photo by Rob Schuette)
Eidson also said the unit coordinates with a number of units in battlefield scenarios. The MLRS, for example, can use its computerized equipment to spot targets for aircraft and bring them in for air support missions.
1st Lt. Jay Wilson, the platoon leader for Bravo Battery of the 1st, 126th, said during this training, personnel from the 1st Corps of Fort Lewis, Wash., were present. The 1st, 126th falls under the 57th Field Artillery Brigade, which is aligned to the 1st Corps. Some of the missions were directed by 1st Corps, Wilson said.
"They're looking at us and evaluating us to see how we would fit their needs," he said.
Spc. David Cohodes, a gunner for Bravo Battery of the 1st, 126th, said the training included night movements, which required using the Automated Fire Control System to navigate.
Unit members also had to employ good hydration and ventilation techniques. Cohodes said although the Paladin doesn't have air conditioning it does have an outside ventilation connection system that helps keep crew members cool.
Pvt. 2 Benjamin Bowman, a medic from Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of the 1st, 126th, is attached to the unit and provides medical support.
The medics are equipped to treat a wide range of medical concerns, he said.
Heat injuries, illnesses, allergies, and rashes, are potential concerns, Bowman said. Because the personnel work in a confined space with many metal elements they also are subject to such things as cuts and strains.
"Hygiene also is a consideration," Bowman said. "The close quarters mean illnesses such as colds or anything that could be spread must be watched closely and treated promptly."
Medical care also includes battalion aid stations and access to ground ambulances and a helicopter landing zone, if necessary, he said.