CAMP BUEHRING --
Silence is golden, or so the old saying goes. That is true of course, unless your job is to upset the silence in a cataclysmic way. If silence then becomes the enemy, the ear splitting sound of high explosive artillery rounds piercing the already smoking hot air is the sound of victory.
Raining down steel destruction on targets miles away with pinpoint accuracy could be described as the way of the Marine artilleryman—standing by to support Marines in the field at a moment’s notice.
In the quiet calm of Kuwait’s vast emptiness, a place of blistering hot sunlight where the hot air stings the nostrils with every breath and burns the eyes with every breeze, the Marines of India Battery, Battalion Landing Team 2/5, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit rolled out six of their M777 155mm Howitzers to conduct vital sustainment training to keep their warrior ethos sharp and their skills sharper.
India Battery endured temperatures in excess of 120F, surprise dust storms, late nights and early reveilles to ensure mission success during the evolution.
Weather and long-days aside, the training operation was still a success according to 1stLt. Robert Regedanz, the executive officer for India Battery. The purpose of the training, explained Regadanz, is to refine and practice their artillery skills and to implement several changes to their standard operating procedures that would enable them to become better artillerymen.
“With the mission they’ve been doing, they’re very motivated. The 15th MEU gave us a great package of ammunition—the Marines know that and they’re excited about being out here and being able to train,” said Regedanz, a 26 year-old native of Fort Wayne, Ind.
“In this open space without a lot of restrictions it is a good environment to train artillery—we can shoot, move and communicate and have a good time doing it.”
Kuwait, as it turns out, provided a perfect opportunity to keep perishable skills intact, he explained. As it happens, the extreme conditions of the Kuwaiti desert gave the battery a perfect opportunity to use some old skill sets that can get rusty over time.
“The digital side of the weapons has made it very easy to get it in place. When that system sometimes fails because of heat conditions in the desert we have to go back to our old ways of doing things. Like any skill, it’s perishable with time. We have been out here doing some of that training,” Regadanz explained.
Despite some of the setbacks, however, India Btry still managed to fire off almost 200 rounds in roughly a day and a half.
Helping to reinforce these principles is the job Cpl. Nathaniel J. Chaney, the assistant chief for Gun 3, India Btry, explained that he is trying to train his own Marines for any possible scenario. Having had a long hiatus from shooting, at least since their deployment started, he explained.
Furthermore, many of the Marines on his crew are inexperienced with only a small number of field operations under their belts adding to the value of the training.
“We’re just trying to get the Marines trained up with artillery since it’s been a while since we’ve shot. It’s been about two or three months—before we came over here,” said Chaney, a 23 year-old native of Hannibal, Missouri.
“We formed the battery in June and [the junior] Marines have been doing pretty good and learning pretty quickly.”
Focusing on the fundamentals is one of the keys to success for training his gun crew, Chaney related. To do this, the crew has been performing dry-fire drills among other things to ensure they are dropping rounds on target with accuracy and efficiency.
“We’ll do dry-fire missions where don’t put any rounds in the tube and getting the gunners and [assistant] gunners time behind the sights—run through basic cannoneer drills [to get the Marines trained],” explained Chaney.
Chaney admitted the weather has played a small part in the training of his Marines. The constant dust storms have had an affect on both his gun and his gun crew. With dust flurries being kicked up with the slightest of breezes the maintenance on the gun had to be stepped up making sure it stays clean.
Frustration with the weather began to settle in a little as well since the Marines had to postpone training until the storms passed.
“[The blowing sand] messes with our breaches and we have to keep up on maintenance and make sure everything stays clean because as seen earlier we had problems priming the gun because of all the sand getting in there,” explained Chaney.
For Lance Cpl. David Wyble, ammunition team chief, just being able to train here in Kuwait is motivation enough.
Wyble is completely unfazed by the austere training conditions. Kuwait is obviously very different from mild Southern California environment that West Coast Marines are used to.
“I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me I love [training here]. It’s something different, something new. You don’t get this kind of terrain in the United States—especially with the sandstorms—I like it,” said Wyble.
For Wyble being in a field environment is less of a hassle than it is just a good time.
“You work your butt off at this job but it all pays off when you put the rounds down range. It’s better than fireworks, said Wyble, a 25 year-old native of Tulsa, Okla.