POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii --
Marines from Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, ﬁred multiple M777 155 mm Howitzer systems during Operation Spartan Fury 14.2 at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, March 7, 2014.
In cold, rainy and windy weather high in between Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea and the Hualalai volcanic mountains, Bravo Battery unpacked its ammunition, weapons and gear. Each section had two trucks hauling supplies from one ﬁring zone to the other. Once reaching the designated ﬁring zone, the section chief aligned the howitzers into position. Marines dug the guns into place, creating a ﬁrm foundation for the guns to prevent shifting during ﬁre missions. Two rounds were readily accessible immediately after the gun system was in place in case Marines received a ﬁre mission during the rest of their setup. In each section a camouﬂage net covered both 7-ton trucks and the back of the gun, where the crew loaded the rounds of ammunition.
Once the area was set up, the Marines waited. The gun crews were aware of the location of all gear needed at all times as they waited for the order to ﬁre, which could come at any moment. The section chief commanded sections to start the loading process by calling out “Fire mission.”
Upon command, the Marines moved quickly as individuals and ﬂuidly completed their ﬁre mission. Before the weapon was loaded, section chiefs double-checked the round type, charge amount, fuse type and target coordinates.The Marines then collected the ammunition. The M777 ﬁres the high explosives, smoke, illumination or white phosphorus rounds, which helped the projectile soar through the air. A Marine cradled the round and quickly set it on the loading tray while two Marines used a bore rod to push the ammunition up into the chamber, and awaited orders to pull the lanyard for detonation. The sections waited for the operations chief’s command, “Stand by.”
When the order was given, the section chief raised his hand in anticipation of hearing “Fire” from the operations chief. Once it came over the radio, the section chief lowered his arm while simultaneously yelling, “Fire!” His gunner pulled a lanyard attached to the gun system, causing an earthshaking boom, hurtling a 155 mm round downrange. Upon completion of the exercise, the battery moved to a new location. Each section packed everything into the truck, leaving the ﬁring location without a trace. The training provided the battalion’s newest Marines with a chance to experience all aspects of 1st Bn., 12th Marines artillery.
“The junior Marines are learning a lot out here,” said Sgt. Shawn Comtois, the section four chief of Bravo Battery, 1st Bn., 12th Marines. “Our goal is to become proﬁcient in every aspect of our job. Shooting, moving and communicating, while using the guns, are vital skills needed during training that our Marines are using every day.
The Marines of Bravo Battery repeated the steps of unloading, ﬁring and loading gear several times a day.
“The PTA training area provides some of the best possible training,” Comtois said. “Operation Spartan Fury forces everyone in the battalion to become a better artilleryman, therefore being prepared for any deployment scenario."