Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 119th Field Artillery Regiment, with support from Bravo Co., 1-147 Aviation and the 238th General Service Aviation Battalion, Michigan National Guard, successfully conducted Cold Weather training on Camp Grayling Joint Military Training Center, Mich., Feb. 28, and March 1, 2014.
The two-day mission, challenged by extreme sub-zero temperatures, included the sling loading and live fire of twelve M-777 155mm howitzers. The weapons were sling loaded to CH-47 Chinooks and hoisted from garrison CGJMTC to Firing Point 300 on North Camp. Gun crews were then transported to the firing point in UH-60 Blackhawks.
“When we planned for this, we planned for twenty to thirty degree temps,” said Lt. Col. Scott Meyers, 1-119th FA Battalion Commander. “Our first day up here, it was thirty degrees below zero so we ended up doing more arctic-type training.”
Early morning day one, negative thirty degree temperatures took their toll on equipment but the mission pressed on.
“The vehicles and equipment – it’s been hard on them,” said Meyers. “We’ve learned what works in thirty below and what does not.”
With the frigid temperatures, machinery that was expected to work, didn’t.
“We went through a couple dozen batteries for vehicles. Getting them to start in the morning was very difficult and tires were going flat. We had two 2,500 gallon diesel tankers completely gel up and freeze so we had to bring them into a warming bay so we could draw the fuel the next day,” said Meyers.
The Soldiers of Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie batteries pressed on despite the arctic conditions.
“They’ve overcome and, today, all vehicles are running,” said Meyers. “Mechanics were up until 2300, 11 p.m., last night fixing everything and it’s working today so there’s a lot of motivation to make this weekend work.”
“It was definitely cold, but it was a lot of fun and something new for the battalion,” said First Lt. Adam Stephens, Alpha Battery executive officer, 1-119th FA. “Sometimes it’s good to challenge yourself and overcoming adversity brings the unit together to achieve the mission.”
Stephens served as liaison to the flight crew to ensure safety and landing time of the UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
“We had zero cold weather injuries,” said Meyers. “Thirty below zero standing under 140 mile per hour winds underneath a Chinook that’s lifting up a howitzer, that’s certainly a challenge.”
There were several ‘firsts’ for the 1-119th’s cold weather operation.
“The first time we slungload a howitzer was yesterday and the very first time we did it, it was thirty below zero,” said Meyers. “Two thirds of the battalion had never flown in an aircraft. Yesterday was the first day they’d done that.”
During the two-day operation, 36 aircraft missions with the Howitzers were executed.
“We had some external evaluators with us from Camp Atterbury, active duty component guys, that were checking us out and they said we looked like any active duty component doing this for many, many years,” said the proud commander.
“The Soldiers’ motivation is high and the Army equipment has kept them warm,” said Meyers. “We even had four enlistments today. We had Soldiers say, ‘We would like to reenlist. This was one of the most awesome things we’ve ever done.’”
More than 100 Soldiers from the 1-119th FA and B Co. 1-147th earned cold weather operation training certifications and learned uncountable lessons and adaptive techniques.
The 1-119th FA will be conducting other sling load missions throughout this year and the cold weather operation is slated to be conducted again in 2015.
Story by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Bratic, 126 Press Camp Headquarters, Michigan National Guard
- Staff Sgt. Kimberly Bratic, 126 Press Camp Headquarters, Michigan National Guard
- Spc. Brandon Ames, 126 Press Camp Headquarters, Michigan National Guard
- Spc. Alexandria Robinson, 126 Press Camp Headquarters, Michigan National Guard
Video by Spc. Eric Bandy, Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs
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