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Cannoneers indirect fire tactic.

It'll be a different artillery mission next time in Iraq. Instead of a "move-and-shoot" approach to indirect firepower in support of an advancing fighting force, the big guns will be targeting insurgents in fixed firing positions.

With the reality of guerrilla warfare in Iraq squarely in mind, Marines from Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, broke in a new firing base last July at Camp Pendleton, California--a range tailored to what they'll face in Iraq--in preparation for an OIF deployment last summer.

The unit overlooked no detail during the eight-month-long construction process, said Lt. Col Alan L. Orr, the commanding officer of 1 Bn., 11th Marines. He noted that the base is perched uprange from a big sandbox that serves as a target. "(The fire base lies) parallel to the long axis of the impact zone," said Orr.

The fire base consists of eight depressions into which an artillery piece like an M-198 howitzer can be placed. The depressions are deliberately placed beyond the howitzer's range by just a few meters. Artillerymen--it takes at least six--must physically pick up the howitzer by its legs and move it slightly to try to extend its range. In powerlifiting jargon, it amounts to a "dead lift"

The base is unglorified. Two humvees backed up against one another serve as a command post. Officers from the battalion were sent over to Iraq to gather information on current operations so they know what to prepare for, according to Orr.

Because insurgent activity is so sporadic, relying primarily on the element of surprise, warfare in Iraq ebbs and flows like ocean tides. Marines joke that artillery is a prefect example of "hurry up and wait," leading one Marine to speculate, "I'll be fighting boredom more than the enemy." However, once the words "fire mission" ring out on the radio, the fire base comes alive as if a baseball bat has struck a hornets' nest.

Marines begin by processing the fire mission data. Then they load the howitzer and fire away. It seems simple enough, but several variables can slow the process, such as how much charge to use or tracking fellow Marines or "friendlies." But Company B makes it look easy.

--Courtesy Lance Cpl. Stephen Holt, USMC
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Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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