GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – Seven U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division participated in a Paladin Leaders Course at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Feb. 13-16, 2018.
The purpose of the course was to develop the battalion leaders’ competency and proficiency on the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled Howitzer and prepare them for future leadership positions.
“The Paladin leaders course is going to give the future leaders of the battalion a chance to actually go through the crew drills they will supervise and make sure their Soldiers meet the standards,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ivan Martinez, a master gunner assigned to 1-7th FA.
The participants, six lieutenants and one master sergeant, were required to correctly perform the Paladin artillery proficiency tasks and safely operate the Howitzer, a 155mm indirect-fire support cannon.
The Soldiers began the course by taking a written test, which covered general topics on operating the cannon artillery weapon system and procedures to safely handle ammunition.
At the motor pool, the Soldiers received hands-on familiarization and functions checks on the Paladin and took the opportunity to ask questions.
“This gives them a learning environment where they are free to ask questions, because they’re one-on-one with the chief who knows everything there is to know about the cannon,” said Maj. Andrew Martin, the 1-7th FA executive officer.
The instructors of the course were experienced enlisted leaders addressed as ‘chief.’
A section chief is responsible for a number of things concerning the crew and cannon, such as supervising the handling of ammunition, supervising operator and crew maintenance, and ensuring the crew is properly trained.
The chiefs are qualified Howitzer operators and hold the job positions of gunner, smoke and section chiefs for their unit.
On the third day of the course, the group participated in a convoy security operation, received ammunition and conducted a reconnaissance of an area to select firing positions.
“My gunnery sergeant will come out to these locations that we identify and assesses whether this is a good location for the guns to fire,” said Staff Sgt. James Greene, assigned to 1-7th FA. “The lieutenants were brought out here so they can see the area and see what the gunnery sergeant does for reconnaissance in the selection of fire points.”
During the final 24 hours of training, the Soldiers stayed in the Paladin and trained on crew drills, learned how to set fuses, charged munitions, loaded the rounds and fired the weapon.
The chiefs provided step-by-step training, but when the time came to live-fire, they called out the crew drills with high-intensity repetitions that replicated battlefield speed and allowed the students to execute what they had learned.
“As a fire direction officer, it gives people perspective as to why this is what the gun line is doing and this is why the process might take a little bit longer,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Taylor with 1-7th FA. “So, it gives me realistic expectations that when something is happening, I know about how long it takes for someone to do it.”
At the end of the course, the Soldiers understood what the crew-line tasks involved and felt more confident about their duties.