SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, WAHIAWA, Hawaii --
More than 50 Marines from Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, performed a three day digital communications training exercise at Schofield Barracks, May 13 through May 15, 2013. Bravo Battery fired two M777 howitzers using digital communications versus the old-fashioned voice communications method.
The week of May 6, 2013, Bravo Battery participated in a joint-training exercise with the Army’s 3rd Brigade Combat team, at Schofield. They supported the Army by firing 64 rounds of ammunition and utilizing digital communications.
“The training we do here is different than what they get in school,” said Sgt. Joshua Velez, a communications Marine with Bravo Battery, 1st Bn., 12th Marines. “This gets them ready, especially when we cross train with other services because it could very well happen out in the field. This gets
us all ready for a real-life situation.”
Voice communications are the traditional way of calling for fire. Forward observers, or the eyes of the unit, radio the targets coordinates to the unit. The unit sent the coordinates to Marines on the firing line by radio.
With digital communications, the forward observers send unit target coordinates through a computer system, check the data and send it digitally to Marines on the firing lines. Digital communications have been utilized over voice communications since 2006 due to efficiency, accuracy and speed.
“The exercise helps new Marines become acquainted with the way things work and helps make sure everyone can still fire accurately,” explained Staff Sgt. Fernando Faria, platoon sergeant for Bravo Battery, 1st Bn., 12th Marines, of Tampa, Fla. “It helps the Marines become familiar with the digital communications of the weapons and the computers.”
Even though the Marines now have more advanced communication methods, they continue to plot grid targets on paper, and use radios in case the computers fail.
“These exercises help new Marines understand different types of scenarios,” Velez said. “This gets them into the mindset of real-life situations.”
During the exercise, the forward observers, who were camped out on the other side of a hill, sent the unit the coordinates. Once they were received, the coordinates were passed on verbally to the other Marines in the tent. One Marine would draw out the coordinates to determine if they fell in the safety zone. If they fell in the safety zone, he would give the ‘ok’ to send them to Marines on the firing line.
Down on the firing line, eight Marines waited at each howitzer for the computer to buzz, alerting them that a target was found. The howitzers received the data and displayed it on screens on each side of the weapon. The Marines used hand cranks to put the weapon in position to fire, loaded the round and sent rounds down range.
“I believe we are accomplishing the mission big time in this exercise today,” Faria said. “The commanding officer has the capabilities to get the battery where they need to be.”