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3/11 Mike Battery causes chaos with new howitzer

By Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes | | December 17, 2005

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During Operation Iraqi Freedom 1 in January 2003, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, provided artillery support crucial in allowing I Marine Expeditionary Force to penetrate deep into Iraqi territory and bring down Saddam Hussein’s regime in 21 days of major combat operations, according to the 3/11 Web site.Right after the fall of Baghdad, the battalion took up the mission of a provisional infantry battalion and assisted in civil and military duties as well as conducting security and stability operation patrols in the capital city, securing hospitals and other important infrastructure.Though that fight took place more than two years ago, elements of 3/11 continue the fight in 2005.The battalion served as a military police force in OIF 3. The batteries separated into platoon-sized units and dispatched throughout the country in 2005.After seven demanding months of executing their mission, Mike Company, 3/11, returned to the Combat Center Oct. 6 to pick up their mission as cannoneers.The battery was introduced to the Marine Corps’ new artillery weapon system, the M777 lightweight howitzer, upon their return. Even though the Marines hadn’t served as an artillery battery in the past two years, their skills were refreshed and brought up to par with their new weapons system. Mike Battery set off on an expedition to the Combat Center’s training area to execute a firing exercise with the M777 for the first time the week of Dec. 17.The purpose of the exercise was to validate the training they received by the New Equipment Training Team on the M777 and prepare for combat operations in order to support a maneuver force with both accurate and timely artillery fires, said Gunnery Sgt. David E. Reid, battery gunnery sergeant.The NET Team from Fort Sill, Okla., met with Mike Battery two weeks prior to the firing exercise. The team prepared the battery section chiefs on the duties during firing missions and the weapons system’s maintenance. After two weeks of dry firing, the battery was ready to fire live ammunition from the M777.The battery conducted firing missions upon their arrival to the training area throughout their last day in the field Dec. 21.“The missions with the new gun are tedious but important,” said Cpl. Jeffrey R. Alford, cannoneer with Mike Battery. “Coming back to shooting howitzers again is a very important deal for us. It’s tough to get back in the swing of things, but nonetheless, we are ready for any of it.”Sgt. Octavius L. Stone, section chief, led Alford and the rest of the sections’ crewmen throughout the exercise. “We haven’t shot a howitzer in over a year,” said Stone. “Now, we are just getting back in the gist of things. We’re picking back up with our MOS and where we left off as cannoneers. The battalion wants to make sure we’re on the same sheet of music as other batteries so we will follow Kilo Battery in fielding this gun and become the sixth Marine Corps firing battery to use the new weapons system. Most of us have been together with the battalion since 2003 so we all know our comforts with each other. But, as Marines leave the battery, new Marines take their place, earning an important task with an important weapon.”
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