Orchestra of Artillery: Illinois Guard Drops the Hits at Rising Thunder

By Sgt. Camacho Roberts, 211th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment | Sept. 11, 2019

YAKIMA, Wash. —

Indirect fire infantrymen collaborate with forward observers to pound the battlefield. The impact of that teamwork is as solid as the thump to a bass drum. At Rising Thunder 19 at the Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Washington, teamwork is that bass line that keeps the band together.

The relationship between the forward observers with the 2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery Regiment and the indirect fire infantrymen of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment, both from the Illinois Army National Guard, is like that of a conductor with their orchestra, directing the cadence and positioning of each note.

Just as a conductor raises their hands to indicate the beginning of a piece of music, the forward observers send signals to the players on the battlefield to ready their instruments and direct artillery fire.

When each instrument of regiments' skillsets are harmonized, they produce the greatest hits of efficiency and accuracy on the battlefield. The flowing baton of a forward observer's eagle eyes introduce the rhythmic sonata of a mortar's 120 millimeter shell synthesizing melodically through air.

“It's been about six months since we've fired these mortars,” said Sgt. 1st Class Lance Odum, from Carrier Mills, Illinois, a platoon sergeant with HHC, 2-130th Inf. Reg. “This is our first test run with some people moved into new positions, and so we don't want to get out there for the combined arms live-fire exercise and have anybody doing anything for the first time.”

Nested on a hill about half a mile away, Staff Sgt. Buddy Seibert, of Vergennes, Illinois, a platoon sergeant and forward observer with the 2-122 FA BN, rehearsed team drills with his mortar platoon prior to firing their first shells. He, along with other observers from his platoon, provided overwatch through a Lightweight Laser Designator Rangefinder.

"The LLDR plays a huge role. It can be mounted with a forward observer on a hill, a tripod, or a vehicle itself,” said Seibert, “Day or night you can mark a target that would give you a ten-digit grid, distance, direction, and elevation of the target areas. You can actually zoom in and get a target up to 20,000 meters away.”

Highly efficient and sophisticated instruments like these work in concert to bring a symphony of lethal capabilities to the battlefield. When teams such as Odum's and Seibert's harmonize, it leverages the winning odds in their favor and significantly improves readiness.

As a bilateral training event, Rising Thunder 19 features the talents of the 25th Infantry Regiment, part of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, adding a fresh sound to the Guard's remastered track list.

“Anytime you can work with anybody else in general, whether it's another forward observer, another state artillery, or especially another country,” said Seibert, “you get to see different views and takes on situations that you can take into your playbook and learn different ways to do things.”

Siebert added how much value has come from this training exercise, both for him as a leader as well as his Soldiers. Here, the mountainous landscape provides experience that simulations cannot replicate.

“With the mortars and forward observers, both of us out here now have a lot of new people in the sections,” said Seibert. “Especially the mortars, setup and maneuverability with tubes would be different. Once they get that live round, their mortar plates will start digging into the ground and they will have to adjust. This exercise gives them more of a realistic combat environment to enhance their skills.”

Forward observers lead the pit from the rostrum platform. Indirect fire infantrymen of the mortar platoon await coordinates to drop the bass. They'll get their chance at the culminating event where they'll lay down a new track of artillery across the Yakima training landscape.

"Anytime you can call on artillery is a good time,” said Seibert.