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Air over Knox filled with howitzer blasts from 1-6 Field Artillery

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By 1st LT. SANDY VITHAYANONTH
1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery
At 9:47 a.m. March 3, the Fort Knox community, long accustomed to the distant sound of firing tanks, heard something unfamiliar at the Home of Armor. The air reverberated with blasts from the King of Battle as the 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment fired its first round on Fort Knox.
The battalion, which has a distinguished 212-year history including service in every major conflict from the War of 1812 to Iraq and Afghanistan, is part of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division which moved to Fort Knox last October.
After two months of training and four months since activation, the 1-6 FA fired its first round while conducting a Table VIII live-fire qualification field training exercise.
The 1-6, which recently served in northeastern Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom IX, moved from Fort Hood, Texas to Fort Knox and activated in October 2009, with only 30 percent of its assigned personnel. Since then, the unit has received personnel and necessary equipment.
In January, with the unit at 60 percent strength, the 1-6 began aggressively training teams from the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, Okla. In the two months prior to live-fire qualification, artillerymen at every level, from new privates to firing battery commanders, conducted training required to pass rigorous hands-on and written tests to validate their readiness to conduct live-fire training.
Table VIII qualifications require a round to be safely ready to fire within 30 seconds for low-angle missions and 45 seconds for high-angle missions. The qualifications were graded and supervised by the battalion Master Gunner, Sgt. 1st Class Eric Williams, formerly a drill sergeant with the 1-46 Infantry at Fort Knox.
“Live fire is what every artilleryman looks forward to,” said Lt. Col. James Vizzard, the commander of the 1-6 FA, about the five-day exercise. “This is a critical gate on our road to full combat readiness.”
Alpha Battery, commanded by Capt. Adrian Chen, fired the first round. After hearing the anxiously-awaited “round observed safe” from forward observers, battery personnel continued to fire while conducting a variety of artillery fire missions designed to qualify the unit’s fire direction center, howitzer sections, and maneuver unit forward observers.
The next day, Bravo Battery, commanded by Capt. Travis Robison, conducted its qualification and qualified forward observer teams from 1-26 Infantry, 6-4 Cavalry, and the brigade’s Combat Observation Lasing Teams.
Each battery qualified four howitzer sections and one fire direction section representing half of the battalion’s firepower. The remainder will qualify by June. In total, the battalion fired more than 300 rounds of 105mm high explosive and smoke.
The live-fire event tested artillery skills, logistics, and planning, and although challenging, the event was a tremendous success. Last week’s live fire was the culmination of months of hard training, and now the unit looks forward to even greater challenges.
In the upcoming months the 1-6 will shoot “danger close” missions for maneuver elements as part of the brigade’s Combined Arms Live Fire exercises. This will certify unit leaders to call for artillery fire and attack aviation assets under simulated combat missions.
By the end of the year, the battalion will be ready to go wherever it’s needed to participate in future combat operations.