by Airman 1st Class Luke W. Nowakowski
460th Space Wing Public Affairs
8/24/2015 - BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- "Fire
mission!" comes out over the radio and creates a frenzy in the gun pit,
as each Marine moves rapidly into position to fire the M777 A2
Howitzer. Within seconds, a round is loaded and a Marine stands waiting
for the command to fire. 'Fire!' the chief yells, after a last glance at
the sights. A thunderous boom shakes the ground as the 100-pound round
is ejected out of the barrel. Dirt and gun powder fill the air as the
other Howitzers on the line follow suit. Miles away, black clouds
appear on a hillside identifying where the rounds impacted. Quebec
Battery, 5th Battalion 14th Marines, has made its presence known in
Q Battery is a reserve Marine artillery unit staged out of Buckley Air
Force Base. Recently, Q Battery, which is made up of over 150 Marines,
took to the countryside for three days to train at Camp Guernsey.
"Every single Marine plays a huge role in making those guns go boom,"
said Gunnery Sgt. Zachary Storrud, Q Battery 5/14 battery gunnery
sergeant. "Everyone in artillery needs to be there. It's probably the
coolest military occupational specialty in the Marine Corps, because we
have 13 to 14 different MOS's that do one job, which is make those guns
Firing artillery is much more complex than just point and shoot. From
fire direction control, to communications, to the gun line, the
choreography of artillery takes many men with varying specialties to put
rounds down range effectively.
Before a Howitzer can fire, an advanced party must scout out an area
that the Marines feel is appropriate to fire from. When the advanced
party reaches an area they feel comfortable firing from, they scout the
area for any signs of enemy combatants before calling in the guns. Once
an area is deemed safe, communications, survey, and fire direction
control are set up and await the arrival of the guns.
When the guns arrive on scene, they are brought to pre-determined
locations marked with aiming posts which help align the guns. Marines
use compasses to correctly place the guns on a line they feel will give
them accurate fire. Once in line, they lay the guns in place and ready
them to be fired.
Geometry is used to calculate the correct position the gun needs to be
in for accurate fire. When a round impacts, a forward observer radios
back whether the round was on target or if adjustments need to be made.
If the round was off target, data collected from the forward observer
will be used by fire direction control to calculate what adjustment
needs to be made to the position of the gun, which are radioed to the
"The howitzers have to get laid on an azimuth of fire and it's done by
trigonometry," Storrud said. "Once that's done, then they pick a firing
point. After the firing point is done, then they can start getting
As a reserve unit, Q Battery only has an opportunity to fire live rounds
a few times out of the year. Because of this, these types of exercises
are crucial in keeping the Marines proficient at their craft.
"You always learn something new every time you go out," said Lance Cpl.
Ulises Araiza, Q Battery 5/14 cannoneer. "Being in the reserves as a
cannoneer, you don't get as much experience as active duty does."
This three-day field-operation in Guernsey came with its challenges for Q
Battery. Not only was a new staff directing operations, but many of the
reservists were doing jobs they hadn't done before.
"We put new guys in new places," Storrud said. "Anytime you put someone
new in a new position or a new billet, you degrade the quality. It
wasn't due to the Marines, but due to the new jobs. We can't continue to
keep our top dogs in the same positions. You have to rotate guys
through so we get a wealth of knowledge."
Although the exercise wasn't as clean as Q Battery would have liked, a lot of insight came out of the three-day field-op.
"I thought some of the pluses were we actually came together as a staff
and we're now implementing new procedures for drill dates for when we go
out to the field and shoot artillery," Storrud said. "I think it was a
good thing that we didn't have the best field-op because we learned as a
battery what some of our downfalls were and where we can improve and
are now putting in procedures for that."
One of the staff members that helps train the reservists, Lance Cpl.
Daniil Kravchuk, Q Battery 5/14 towed artillery systems technician,
comes from the Fleet and brings experience and knowledge to the reserve
battery. As a 'gun doc,' he is able to give valuable training to
reservists whose job is to maintain the Howitzer.
"Coming out here, I like to think I bring experience here that other
individuals don't have," Kravchuk said. "I am able to pass that down to
the reserve artillery mechanics and teach them and give them real world
scenarios they can use and learn from."
Active duty Marines like Kravchuk help to train the reservists and keep
them up to speed with what is expected from a Marine artillery battery.
Although Q Battery was met with challenges during the exercise, it was
apparent these Marines are motivated warriors.
"They are dedicated hard working Marines and they want to be there,"
said Kravchuk. "The guys out there do go the extra mile, they care about
their job. We have fantastic chiefs and fantastic cannoneers. Quebec
Battery is dedicated."
Quebec Battery is a motivated, hardworking group of Marines. Despite
facing hardships during the exercise due to new positions within the
battery and limited time conducting live-fire exercises, the Marines
came together and showed they can bring the fight to the enemy anytime,