Training usually done on simulators was brought to life when lieutenants of the Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course were issued live rounds to take part in training at the Malone Range Complex as part of the IBOLC joint firepower week.
“We are actually able to take it from the drawing board and from the simulator and actually see rounds on target and actually call in,” said 2nd Lt. David Barber, IBOLC student.
The July 22 event allowed lieutenants to incorporate the indirect fire platform to fully develop a ground tactical plan in relation to direct and indirect fires, said Capt. Edward Bachar, senior platoon trainer for the Experimental Platoon.
“Infantry Officers Basic Leader Course 81-mm Mortar Training”
With support from the Experimental Platoon, the Mortar Training Company and the 198th Infantry Brigade, IBOLC lieutenants executed this culminating event, which Bachar said is going to be a part of the program of instruction of IBOLC from here on out, specifically in relation to call for fire.
“A large portion of this course is focused on being able to incorporate direct and indirect fire control measures as well as massing the effects of all platoon organic (assets) as well as force multipliers – in this case being fire support,” Bachar said.
The purpose of the training was for lieutenants to become familiar with call for fire procedures and how they are applied to an actual gun line. Within the training, 44 IBOLC lieutenants worked in platoons and had the opportunity to execute the individual Soldier skill of employing mortars and executing a gun line with an 81-mm mortar tube and ten rounds of high explosives.
“It’s outstanding hands-on training for us to actually see what it sounds like, what it feels like and be able to actually do it in a real-life scenario,” Barber said.
At the range, each individual called for fire – a grid mission – served as a forward observer, adjust fire onto a target designated by cadre and call and observe an eight-round fire for effect.
“From this event they should understand the individual Soldier skill, what is executed at the (fire distribution coordinator’s) level, what a gun line looks like, what an actual eight-round fire for effect mission looks like,” Bachar said.
They each had 10 rounds, a full gun line and an operating fire distribution coordinator to understand the proper integration of direct and indirect fire capabilities at the platoon level.
When information came in from the observer, it was converted into the angle and the azimuth, and then the lieutenant serving as the gunner was told the angle and azimuth they had to be in to engage the target, said Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Witt, senior instructor for the Infantry Mortar Leader Class. To fire the round, the gunner yelled ‘hang it,’ then aimed the gun to be fired before the round was dropped into the mortar and the target was destroyed.
The lieutenants should also understand what their forward observer would be doing while they are coordinating assets to bear upon the enemy, Bachar said.
Barber said he gained a deeper appreciation for all the factors involved with the call for fire such as getting the math correct, going through the proper sequence of events and assuring there are no misfires.
“It’s taking all the assets they have, or may have available and incorporating that into developing a sound ground tactical plan,” Bachar said. “Following this week, they should be completely familiar with offensive operations in relation to a platoon.”
The lieutenants would be tested in the next week through a field training exercise, Bachar said. For the test, they would be given missions, force multipliers to defeat an enemy in a prescribed scenario and should use the training they have gone through previously to develop a ground tactical plan that will allow them to defeat a prescribed enemy in a given operational scenario.
Up to this point, lieutenants had trained on individual Soldier skills, squad collective tasks, fire team training, platoon-level troop leading procedure training and communication training and platoon-level offensive operation training.
” … and now, we’re just adding the force multiplier to it,” Bachar said. “Then, we’re going to continue to change the operational scenario from a wooded area to urban operations to allow them to apply the fundamentals they have learned through week 10. “
Barber said the training was the closest the lieutenants had been to actually being in theater and doing the “real thing” on an enemy target.
“It’s great being in a classroom, we learn a lot of great stuff in the classroom, but nothing can beat the experience of being able to go out to the range,” Baber said. “It puts an added sense of urgency and sense of importance on making sure you’re doing your job and doing it right. You make some mistakes, but that is what training is for, you train until you can’t get it wrong.”
Photo Credit: Lieutenants of the Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course take part in call for fire training as they execute the individual Soldier skill of employing mortars and executing a gun line with an 81-mm mortar tube and 10 rounds of explosives July 22, 2015 at Malone 25 Range as part of their joint fire week. (U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright)