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3/11 Kilo prodigies prepare to deploy

By Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes | | December 13, 2005

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The cannoneers of Kilo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, are scheduled to deploy to Okinawa, Japan, as part of the Unit Deployment Program, to demonstrate their presence in the Pacific Ocean and the Western Hemisphere.The battery has been training and preparing for this upcoming deployment using their old weapons system — the M198 Towed Howitzer. Kilo and Lima Batteries were the Corps first two artillery batteries to field and fire the M777 Lightweight Howitzer and were notorious in doing so, said Lt. Col. Douglas H. Fairfield, 3/11’s commanding officer. However, Okinawa does not have the M777, so Kilo Battery began fielding their M198 to refresh their skills in firing the weapon.“Kilo Battery is the most experienced artillery battery in the Marine Corps with the M777 Lightweight Howitzer,” said Fairfield. “They’ve been training with them ever since they were brought to us in May. Their skills in the artillery field are proficient, so using both weapons systems isn’t a problem to them.”Kilo Battery set out for the Combat Center’s training area Dec. 8 to conduct a live-firing exercise. The Marines displayed their skill in mounting and dismounting the M198 Towed Howitzer weapons from their seven-ton trucks and firing them. Most of the Marines in the battery learned both weapons systems in their military occupational specialty school in Fort Sill, Texas. But until Dec. 8, the battery hasn’t used the M198 since they got the M777.Lance Cpl. Sean Charles Bradford, field artillery cannoneer with Kilo Battery, came to the unit in February of 2005. He learned both weapons systems in his MOS school but accredits his leaders for the proficiency and versatility his unit has in their field.“Aside from being well-educated in the artillery field, I am very proud to be with this battalion, and more so, this unit,” said Bradford, a Chico, Calif., native. “I think this is the strongest battery in the strongest artillery battalion in the Marine Corps. We have the finest cannoneers leading us and their finesse rubs off to all Marines under them.“Having to field the M198 today to prepare us to use them in Okinawa doesn’t worry us at all. We are so great with both weapons systems that we can shoot 20 rounds, back-to-back, with the M777 Lightweight Howitzer and one second later turn to the M198 Towed Howitzer and fire another 20 rounds and have no problem at all. We are so confident in ourselves, our knowledge of the weapons, and our leaders, that we cannot fail.”As Bradford said, the confidence in proficiency the Marines contain stem from their leaders, who directly are their section chiefs. Sgt. Eric R. Lowinski, artillery section chief with Kilo Battery, attributes his section’s success with his higher-ups.“Our battery wouldn’t be as skilled as we are today if it weren’t for direction from our platoon sergeants, battery sergeants, executive officer and commanding officer,” said Lowinski, a Deleon, Texas, native. “It’s the way they lead us through morale that makes us want to do better. For the most part, I want to demonstrate good leadership by passing on good morale and being knowledgeable in my MOS. I make certain that the Marines know they can come up to me for anything or to talk about anything. Once you establish a good relationship between each other, missions will get accomplished better and quicker. Tasks are easier when I talk to my Marines rather than barking orders at them.”As the deployment approaches, tasks and missions need to be completed in order to verify their capability as cannoneers in an artillery battery, skilled in operating both weapons systems.“Personally I love the M198,” said Bradford. “It’s a beast. It’s heavier and causes more ruckus when it’s fired. I’m glad we’re still involved with both weapons systems. For most of us in the battery, this will be our first deployment, and I wouldn’t want to deploy with any other unit than the Marines I’m going with now. My gun chief, Sgt. Lowinski, assures us of our success.”Kilo Battery will continue training with the M198 Towed Howitzer until they embark on their expedition to Okinawa. “The deployment will make us stronger as a unit,” said Lowinski. “We will be living together for the whole deployment and have only each other to count on. This is my fourth time deploying to Okinawa, and I want to make it a great experience for the new Marines.”
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