The fire exercise
Author and photos: Mariusz Konarski
Saturday, July 14,2007
I've had a chance to participate in a fire exercise in FOB Sharana (Forward Operation Base - MZ) - implementing a NATO procedure "Call for Fire", using mortars caliber 98 mm, with shrapnel-demolishion ammunition. Typically, the crew of this type of mortar is made of five soldiers: one aimer, one loader, two ammunition suppliers and a commander.
"I have received a fire data from the Fire Direction Command (FDC)" - says Warrant Officer 3rd Class Ireneusz Stasiński, a fire officer. The data, after passing it to the mortar crews, make it possible to shoot targets from the hidden fire posts. "First, the directional gun fires a single grenade. After a correction from an observation post, I'll switch to the effective platoon fire until a target is destroyed. We are battle ready to fire in any direction around the base at the distances up to 7200 meters."
A tremendous boom and a column of fire over the mortar makes an impression. The main task of our mortars is a power demonstration. They are served by professional soldiers from the 18th Air Assault Btn, the professionals with experience gained in past missions.
These type of trainings are organized often - to keep the soldiers in the high battle readiness. This is not a surprise that soldiers from the fire platoon sometimes run out only in shorts, flak jackets over their T-shirts and helmets - ready to take their positions.
"In our free time - which is quite short - we use body building gym and we run to maintain and increase our fitness" - say Pfc. Rafał Król. "We think a lot about our families" - adds Pfc. J****z Biadun of Bielsko-Biała. His son was just born.
Polish Battle Group (PBG) has - among other weapons - mortars caliber 98 mm. "This is the main means to protect our soldiers in the bases" - says Cpt. Tomasz Janczak, an officer from the fire support unit of PBG. "Mortars serve for force demonstration and to support soldiers in the zone of responsibility of PBG. We provide security not only to our own soldiers, but also to coalition forces. During the preparation period at home we have recognized the importance of acceptance of NATO artillery procedures. This way, our soldiers have an opportunity to call for coalition artillery fire support and - on the other hand - our artillery units are able to support the coalition forces within our zone of responsibility."
A 24-hours readiness is maintained at the fire posts, as well as - at the Fire Coordination Center (FCC). The fire trainings like this one are meant to maintain the constant battle readiness. Each exercise starts with the artillery "Call For Fire". Targets are usually chosen by the observers from non-artillery units; their reports are then sent to FCC, which prepares the fire data. This way, the non-artillery soldiers exercise their skills in target selection, preparation of fire data, decision of timings for starting the fire and reporting corresponding corrections.
"Our allies appreciate highly our professionalism" - adds Cpt. T. Janczak - "and - because of it - we have a free rein in using our artillery."