By Army Sgt. Matt Moeller
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 5, 2009 - A 46-pound artillery round explodes into the hills surrounding Forward Operating Base Kalagush here as Afghan National Army forward observers watch patiently, consulting their maps. After an adjustment, Afghan officers from the 4th Kandak enter new data into their computers and relay updated coordinates to the artillerymen waiting to fire. Within moments, the 7,000 pound D-30 122 mm howitzer artillery cannon blasts another round; this time it's a direct hit.
The cloud of smoke growing in the distance Aug. 2 marked the first time 4th Kandak forward observers, fire direction control personnel and artillerymen have worked together to conduct live-fire training, said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Steve Murello of Embedded Training Team 4-4.
"Most of the guys, when they come out of school, are trained for just direct fire. They're not trained to work with forward observers or the [fire direction control], so if they can't see it, they can't shoot it," Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Enrique Munoz said. By incorporating them, "now the gun-line doesn't need to have eyes on [the target]. ... It's all done for them."
The embedded training team took on a supporting role as Afghan officers conducted the training, starting with basic techniques such as reading a map and compass, and moving into more advanced methods such as using the newly developed Afghan field artillery computer.
But the day's events did not come easy at times.
Accustomed to training separately, forward observers and fire direction control personnel had a series of communication breakdowns, which left the gun-line's D-30 howitzer silent for long stretches of time.
The Afghan teams eventually worked through the breakdowns, and the forward observers successfully helped the artillery pound round after round into the hills using their cannon, which was left behind by the Soviet Union in the 1980s and is older than many of the men firing it.
"It was some good training," Murello said. "Overall, they did very well."
"This shows that my soldiers can fight for our country," Afghan army 1st Sgt. Roohullah Shirzi said. "If [the enemy] tries to hurt our people, then we will be able to destroy them."
Members of Embedded Training Team 4-4 are nearing completion of their nine-month deployment to Afghanistan. Marines from the 3rd Marine Division, based in Okinawa, Japan, will pick up the mission.
(Army Sgt. Matt Moeller serves with the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)