Forward observers train to be eyes of field artillery

| June 18, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo By
Spc. Jazz Burney
3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division

Sgt. Chestin Scott shows Spc. Justin Hix, with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, the grid coordinates, so Hix can send the information to their fire support base during the 3rd Brigade Combat Team’s forward observers certification.SCHOFIELD BARRACKS – On a battlefield, before artillery rounds of any size can be used to support a platoon or company of infantry Soldiers, exact targeting information must be gathered by Soldiers known as forward observers.

During the execution phase of a weeklong training event at 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, called “FIST Cert” or fire support team certification, brigade Soldiers learned and sharpened their skill set at Area X, here, June 4-14.

With the upcoming deployment to Afghanistan, FO Soldiers have had to change  training procedures due to the difference in mission they will face there as opposed to their previous mission in Iraq. 

Increased attention on proper fire support tasks, battle drills and accurate target location techniques have been ramped up to meet this change. 

The weeklong course consisted of three portions, with the third being the actual execution phase of the training. 

The first portion consisted of  a 50 -question written examination. It tested Soldiers’ knowledge about targeting skills, including determining direction and distance needed to hit a target area and creating a terrain sketch. Soldiers were also tested on their understanding of a weapon’s capabilities. 

The second phase required Soldiers to participate in a virtually simulated battlefield. Soldiers received a map, a protractor and a 10-minute time limit to draw a terrain sketch on a virtual screen. They assessed any target presented and called for fire. 

Soldiers were required to to either destroy or get within 100 meters of each target. 

During the execution phase, Soldiers completed a half-mile foot patrol and set up an observation position, or OP. They used a map, radio, binoculars and various field laser marking devices. 

Once at the OP, Soldiers called in fire missions. 

“The forward observer’s main objective on the battlefield is passing accurate targeting information to whatever system will be firing on the field, whether it is close air support, artillery or mortars,” said Capt. Jacob Bowen, fire support officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT, 25th ID. 

“These elements cannot be called into play without the essential information from the FO,” Bowen added. “The key to a successful observer is communication.”

Bowen explained that an FO must be a dynamic Soldier. “Forward observers have to think fast in a changing environment and keep situational awareness on the battlefield,” he said. “Additionally, the FOs need the ability to communicate information to leaders. 

“They also need to be savvy with recommending weapons to the fire support center, and at the same time, move tactically with a squad element,” Bowen explained.

Soldiers were not without guidance. Senior FO leaders moved along with Soldiers during the execution phase. The leaders critiqued and assisted with the observer’s thought process.

“We are helping these Soldiers understand the basics of tactical movements while knowing how to set up a proper defensive plan,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Julga, brigade effects noncommissioned officer, HHC, 3rd BCT, 25th ID. 

“We assist the Soldiers with knowing where to sensibly put a target to call for fire, to set them up for successful missions when we get to our next mission in Afghanistan,” Julga continued. 

“Because we are on the ground giving our information back to our fire support base, we are truly the eyes of the artillery, giving them the ability to accurately suppress or neutralize enemy targets,” said Spc. Justin Hix, HHT, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regt.

Category: News, Training

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