Sgt. Margaret Taylor
129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The Afghan National Army artillery crew loaded the projectile, verified the coordinates, shouted a warning to clear the area and then pulled the lanyard on their weapon.
The resulting concussion from the D-30 122 mm howitzer shook the ground, sending clouds of dust skyward, before the mountainside across the valley more than eight kilometers away exploded a few seconds later.
The live-fire exercise marked the final day of a certification class that ANA soldiers from 4th Kandak, 3rd Brigade, 201st Corps, recently completed at Forward Operating Base Tagab in Kapisa Province.
Their instructors were Soldiers from B Battery, 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI). The U.S. Soldiers traveled from FOB Gamberi in Laghman Province to conduct the specialized training on the D-30 weapon system.
“Our purpose here at FOB Tagab is to train and certify the D-30 crews,” said 1st Lt. Adam Roberts, D-30 training team platoon leader with B Battery. “That includes the fire direction center, the actual gun line crew and their forward observers.”
The Soviet-made D-30 is a heavy artillery weapon capable of engaging targets more than 15 kilometers away. The gun serves as one of the ANA’s primary artillery systems.
“The D-30 takes the battle over the horizon to the enemy,” Roberts said.
When a weapon is capable of hitting targets too distant for the eye to see, the process for target selection and engagement is complex, Roberts continued. Forward observers in the field call map coordinates back to the base. The fire direction center then clears friendly forces from the ground and air space around the target. Once cleared, the gun line crews plot the coordinates, aim their weapons and fire.
Just as with target selection and engagement, the certification process for the D-30 crews involved several phases that were incorporated over a four-day period.
Sgt. 1st Class Allen Simmons, B Battery’s senior adviser for the D-30 and a battalion-level master gunner, explained that after a written exam, Afghan soldiers were tested in various crew and command positions.
The certification concluded with weapon maintenance and a live-fire exercise.
“The main thing we want them to get out of this is the importance of crew drills and the importance of cross training,” Simmons said. “That way, if one person is gone, there’s someone else who can step up for him and perform the task.”
In addition, B Battery Soldiers also brought with them from Gamberi a team of ANA trainers who will take over the D-30 training in the coming months.
Roberts said it was heartening to witness the progress of the gun line crews, the fire direction center personnel and especially the ANA trainers.
“Hopefully, in five to seven months, the ANA team will be in the lead completely,” he said. “That’s the long-term goal.”