Printer Friendly

Meeting the fire support challenge.

From discussions with recently deployed and redeployed leaders from the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, the topic of M982 Excalibur employment has surfaced in numerous forums. These discussions highlight some of the unintended consequences modularity has had for the Army and specifically for the field artillery. These unintended consequences have not only caused degradation in the ability of field artillery units to provide indirect fires (Excalibur included) but have also caused degradation in the entire fire support system. The good news is the Army and the Fires Center of Excellence (FCoE) have already recognized the situation and have taken/are taking steps to mitigate these unintended consequences.

The U.S. Marine Corps has done a great job employing the M982 Excalibur in Afghanistan; however, it must be noted that the fight they face in the Regional Command South (RC-South) is very different from the one the Army faces in the Regional Command Hast (RC-East). In fact, if one examined the total number of artillery rounds fired in RC-East vs. RC-South over the last eight months, the Army shot 22 times the total number of rounds that the Marine Corps fired. Therefore, direct comparison of a single munition does not provide the entire picture. Additionally, the U.S. Air Force has been focused on supporting the close air support (CAS) mission in Afghanistan since there has been no need to execute air interdiction and counter air missions. This has created a situation of unprecedented CAS availability for the maneuver commander.

Although this has provided excellent results in Afghanistan, it has also had the second order effect of allowing the forward observer and his maneuver commander to become extremely reliant on CAS for fire support. This is a luxury we may not have in the next conflict. One benefit of the CAS availability is the validation of the joint fires observer (JFO) program that has been ongoing since 2006. After acknowledging these facts, we must also acknowledge that over the course of almost 10 years of persistent conflict, degradations in Army fire support training, certifications, and leader development have occurred. Modularity has had a contributing effect of degrading the entire fire support system from Army corps through brigade combat team (BCT), thus not providing the maneuver commander with the quality of fire support he requires to accomplish his mission. The Fires Center of Excellence's mission has been/is to improve the entire fire support system through several venues.

The FCoE is currently pursuing an initiative that will address these changes through a force design update (FDU). The FDU will reorganize fire support Soldiers and leaders into the fires battalions, facilitating standardized fire support training across the BCT. This would institutionalize fire support training "best practices" to ensure critical certifications through Table XII are conducted to standard and facilitate the professional development of fire support personnel.


Fire support learns will continue to integrate with their maneuver companies during the train/ready phases of Army Force Generation but will place the responsibility of certification and training on the green tab fires battalion commander, thus ensuring a unity of effort for training the entire fire support system belongs to one commander. The concept paper for reorganization has been agreed upon by both the FCoF and the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE) commanders and is currently awaiting U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and I leadquarters. Department of the Army (HQDA) approval.

The second organizational change/FDU is the composite fires battalion for the Infantry BCT. This organization will consist of one M777 battery and one or two MM9A2 batteries. The FPU will provide greater flexibility, mobility, range, and lethality to the I BCT commander in addition to the precision capability found in the 155mm weapon system. The composite battalion FDU has been approved by Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC) and is currently in staffing at HQDA. In the interim, IBCT units train on the M.777 prior to deployment to Afghanistan and/or have an M777 battalion attached to them in theater. The follow-on effect of this FDU will be a renewed emphasis on fire support in the IBCT, specifically training precision fires tasks for employment of a weapon system that was not previously resident in their formations.

Along with organizational changes, doctrine is also being addressed. Most importantly is the role of the organic field artillery battalion commander to the BCT and the fires brigade commander to the division.

In accordance with the new FM 3-09. Fire Support (Final Approved Draft), Chapter 2-17: "The fire support coordinator is the brigade comba1 teams organic Fires battalion commander; if a fires brigade is designated as the division force field artillery headquarters, the fires brigade commander is the division s fire-support coordinator and is assisted by the chief of Fires who then serves as the deputy fire support coordinator during the period the force field artillery headquarters is in effect. The fire support coordinator (FSCOORD) is the primary advisor on the planning for and employment of field artillery and fire support. The responsibilities and authority given to the FSCOORD should he fully delineated by the supported commander The FSCOORD may be given authority by the commander to:

1) Provide for consolidated and focused FS-specific training, certification, readiness, and oversight (personnel management, equipment issue, and training);

2) Facilitate establishing standard operating procedures across the brigade (to save time and ensure a single standard);

3) Ensure efficiently resourced training packages. Although this doctrine change does not return to the concept of a division artillery and direct support battalions it does clearly put FA commanders in charge of the entire fire support system. "


FM 3-09 has been approved by the FCoE commanding general and received "final approved draft" status from the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate (CADD) for publishing.

The FCoE is implementing changes in fire support system institutional training as well. The skill set required to call for and execute precision fires missions at the forward observer level is complex. Use of equipment like the pocket-sized forward entry device (PFED) and knowledge of the precision fires software must be second nature in order to execute time-sensitive missions in the combined arms maneuver/wide area security (CAM/WAS) environment. This issue may be indirectly linked to the lack of formalized training while fire support personnel have been assigned to maneuver formations, but no direct correlation should be made. However, within the Field Artillery School and specifically in the NCO Academy, this education has received renewed emphasis. With the most recent Basic Officer Leaders Course, each student will complete the Joint Fires Observer Course curriculum and attend a two-week assignment-oriented training for JFO certification. Although designed to enhance the ability to direct aviation down to platoon level, the instruction includes target mensuration and collateral damage estimation (CDE), which are skills required to employ precision munitions. Additional classes added to the BOLC-B program of instruction (POI) include:

1) Excalibur/precision-guided munitions -- 6 hours

2) Precision Strike Suite-Special Operations Forces/Collateral Damage Estimate (PSS-SOF/CDE) -- 8 hours

3) PFED -- 8 hours

4) PFED integration in call-for-fire trainer/ live fire

5) PFED use during walking shoot/fire support lane and static observation post operations during Redleg War

The NCO Academy has also recently adjusted curriculum to improve the skill set required of our 13F NCOs. In the Advanced Leader Course, they have added 40 hours of target mensuration and training on the PFED with precision software. The Senior Leader Course has expanded for 13F as well to include weaponeering, target mensuration and joint operations targeting process. Warrant Officer Basic Course students receive 40 hours of instruction on CDE and an additional 40 hours of instruction on target coordinate, mensuration, both tasks directly applicable to firing precision munitions. Warrant Officer Advanced Course students receive 80 hours of instruction in joint operational fires and an additional 32 hours of instruction on target coordinate mensuration. Within the curriculum of Advanced Individual Training (AIT), recent POI adjustments include PFED familiarization training into 13FAIT POI. Although not a skill level 10 task, familiarization training and hands-on opportunities on the observation post exposes them to equipment that is in their future fire support teams.

Collective training is another area being addressed. While it is true that the IBCTs cannot live-fire Excalibur at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La., due to range restrictions, we are taking steps to address this issue at Fort Polk and with the program manager for the M982. The issue is the Fort Polk training area is not large enough to accommodate the standard surface danger zone (SDZ) roughly 30x30 kilometers to meet the 1:1,000,000 criteria from AR 385-63, Range Safety. Excalibur can currently be fired only at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, and Twenlynine Palms, Calif., because these are the only installations with maneuver areas large enough to account for the surface danger zone. The program manager (PM) for Excalibur is planning to implement a software change on block Ja-2 Excalibur round that could potentially shrink the SD2 by up to 50 percent of the current size. This change, if implemented, will allow firing of the M982 at other installations. Although live-fire training on Excalibur and other indirect fires munitions is important, they can all be trained in the dry-fire mode at any location. This is critical for units based outside the U.S., since it will never be possible to live fire the M982 in most OCONUS training locations. What JRTC and the other combat maneuver training centers provide is the opportunity to train the entire fire support system, and this is what is absolutely critical to providing the maneuver commander the fire support he requires to accomplish his mission.

In order to further improve the fire support system, the field artillery commandant has personally attended maneuver pre-command courses to discuss the training and use of fire supporters in the BCT formations. These discussions also include the ability of their fire supporters to integrate the use of precision fires if properly trained and equipped. The commandant has also provided guidance to the MCoE Fires Cell, which has in turn instituted a number of efforts in the maneuver basic officer leadership course (BOLC) and the Maneuver Captains Career Course (MCCC). Infantry and Armor BOLC receive overview briefs on PSS-SOF and PFED and demonstrations of the equipment. MCCC students are offered an elective on precision fires, which provides more details/aspects of precision fires and includes hands-on training with systems.

Although modularity may have had a contributing effect on the ability of the fire support team to provide indirect fires due to unforeseen second order effects on the field artillery, the FCoE has and currently is addressing these issues across the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, education, personnel, and facilities (DOTMLPF) domains. Excalibur usage is just one symptom of a larger issue that is currently being corrected. With the implementation of the FDUs, training, and doctrinal revisions outlined in this article, changes are being made to address the modularity induced unintended consequences. By implementing these changes, the FCoE will provide the Army a highly trained, skilled, and adaptable fire support system that is prepared to support the maneuver commander in the CAM/WAS environment today and into the future.

COL Gene Meredith has served as a field artillery officer for 22 years, spending the majority of his career in airborne units to include the 82nd Airborne Division, 18th Fires Brigade (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Special Operations Command Europe. He has deployed to Panama, Iraq, and multiple times to Afghanistan where, on his last tour, he commanded the 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment providing 155 mm fires in support of the 82nd Airborne Division. Meredith is currently assigned to the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, Okla.

COL Richard Cabrey serves as the commandant of the U.S. Army Field Artillery School at Fort Sill. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger School and has served in various Field Artillery positions throughout his career such as Infantry company fire support officer, platoon fire direction officer, platoon leader operations officer, battery commander, and corps fire support coordinator. Cabrey also attended the Advanced Operational Arts Studies Fellowship (AOASF) where he served as a seminar leader in the School of Advanced Military Studies. Following the fellowship, he served as the commander, Operations Group COE in the Battle Command Training Program. He has also served in the position of assistant commandant of the U.S. Field Artillery School, and previously commanded the 214th Fires Brigade, Fort Sill.
COPYRIGHT 2011 U.S. Army Infantry School
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Meredith, Gene; Cabrey, Richard M.
Publication:Infantry Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 2011
Previous Article:Excalibur employment in Afghanistan: Army and Marine Corps differences.
Next Article:Building a better heuristic.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters