The only way to become good at any task is to practice, practice, practice. This is especially important when it comes to military training, where skill in combat missions can be a matter of survival and victory on the battlefield. The mortar platoons of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 635th Armor Regiment spent several days in early May conducting live-fire gunnery at Fort Riley.
“It’s our annual requirement to make sure we are proficient in providing indirect fire for the battalion,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Romans, mortar platoon sergeant. “Table VI will be our culminating event where we are going to shoot upwards of 10 different types of missions. We’ll be shooting all day and into the night.”
Although the actual live-fire was the highlight of the training, as much attention was given to what came before.
“The last couple of days we’ve been prepping for our live-fire,” said Sgt. Jovani Cardona, Gun Two squad leader. “We’ve been starting from basic levels, just gun drills, doing it over and over again for the new guys and experienced guys getting refreshers. We never can be too good to learn new things.”
“We’ll be shooting off 36 training rounds, 17 high-explosive rounds, and 16 white phosphorus,” he said. “It’s important because we learn just what the rounds do, because each round comes out of the tube differently.”
“You train how you fight, fight how you train,” said Spc. Brett Willis, assistant gunner for Gun One. “Under stressful situations you always fall back to the lowest level of your training, so if we can’t get repetition and get good at our job when we’re not in a stressful situation, then we can’t actually go out and be reliable and do our job when we need it.”
“Getting all this extra hands-on time with each other has definitely been good for the unit,” he continued. “We only see each other once a month, so when we get these weeks out here in the field where we can actually do our job and build that team cohesion, it produces good results. I’ve seen it in the field this week, for sure. It’s made us work together better as a team.”
“This is an exciting job and I’m glad I chose it,” said Willis. “It’s quite an adrenaline rush.”