Battery C, 1st Battalion, 119th Field Artillery Regiment, Michigan National Guard is based in Albion. Their mission is to provide Soldiers to the United States Army who are trained and deployable in order to provide conventional fires and destroy, neutralize or suppress the enemy by cannon fire.
Charlie Battery has a special role to provide as a homeland security defense force. Thankfully, the artillery has not been called to defend on U.S. soil since the Civil War, but is trained and positioned to respond if needed. To date, many 119th troops have served faithfully to fight America’s wars overseas and on this continent.
In March 2015, Charlie Battery Soldiers and others from the 119th are supporting Operation Summer Shield XII in Latvia, Michigan’s partner in the Department of Defense sponsored State Partnership Program. During the exercise, Latvian Soldiers embed with Charlie Battery’s cannon crew to conduct live-fire exercises along with several other NATO countries which have Soldiers trained as joint fires observers. The Michigan Soldiers will share their homeland defense expertise, which aids in the National Guard and U.S., incentive to strengthen and sustain global partnerships.
“Operation Summer Shield is a great experience for Soldiers and as a partnership building event,” said Charlie Battery Commander, 1st Lt. Ryan McCann.
Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, in a statement before Congress March 17, 2015 said, “SPP has contributed to the U.S. efforts to counter anticipated and unanticipated global threats as they emerge and has fostered personal relationships with defense leaders around the world.” He continued, “These partnerships and personal relationships in strategic regions around the world have proven invaluable.”
Three fulltime employees support the battery which has an authorized strength of 74 members. Sgt. 1st Class Jonathon Livingston serves as the unit’s readiness noncommissioned officer fulltime, and as a gunnery sergeant on drill weekends. Staff Sgt. Christopher Nowicki is the unit supply NCO and Sgt. Robert Betz is the unit’s training NCO.
According to Livingston, Charlie Battery is a prime example of the “next-Soldier-up” concept where success and personnel continuity is maintained.
“In the past two months, we have changed through promotion and transfer, our commander, a platoon leader, our first sergeant, a gunnery sergeant, a cannon section-chief, our supply sergeant and one fire-control sergeant,” said Livingston. “This all happened immediately prior to a winter live-fire exercise that included a five-hour movement to Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center in harsh winter conditions,” Livingston continued. “Temperatures reached minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. The battery safely maneuvered and fired all its rounds and successfully redeployed to home station without incident.”
Charlie Battery commander, McCann, was formerly an enlisted Soldier with the battery.
“It’s a little unusual to take command of the unit I was previously enlisted in, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said McCann. “One of the most important things in the Army is being able to accept the responsibility of your supervisor; you never know what’s going to happen and you need to be mission capable at all times,” he continued. “Charlie Battery has a reputation of being reliable and consistent because we do a good job mentoring and coaching our subordinates and trusting them with more responsibilities.”
The battery has cannon crewmembers who operate and supervise the M777A2 Howitzer cannon, a 155mm artillery piece which is towed by a 5-ton medium tactical vehicle. Field Artillery Automated Tactical Data Systems Soldiers, specialists in computing, delivering, and tracking the battery’s fire missions, are trained to ensure the rounds sent down-range engage the target. The battery is staffed with field artillery officers who maintain command and control and lead troops during land combat. As with most military organizations, Charlie Battery is staffed with supply personnel who manage the logistical support of the battery.
Since September 2001, Charlie Battery has completed three major deployments. In 2003, Charlie troops deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, along with members of each 1-119th FA Battery, to support the joint task force headquarters there, and Operation Enduring Freedom. The unit was broken up into several elements to assist all aspects of internment operations at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, which included bridge missions to take detainees back to their countries.
In December 2004, the battalion utilized members from Charlie Battery to form a security force company to deploy for one year to Forward Operating Base Abu Ghraib, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. At FOB Abu Ghraib, Charlie Battery Soldiers conducted detainee operations within the Baghdad Central Corrections Facility as well as detainee escort and security force missions. Their efforts contributed to the security force unit receiving the Meritorious Unit Commendation Medal. The Combat Action Badge, which is awarded to Soldiers who personally engage or are engaged by the enemy, was awarded to most of the 150 field artillery Soldiers who deployed.
In 2010, Charlie Battery Soldiers were pulled along with other Soldiers from each 119th Battery to deploy for a convoy security mission into and out of Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn/Responsible Drawdown. During this deployment, nine Charlie Battery Soldiers were awarded the Purple Heart Medal and the Combat Action Badge.
It has been a little more than four years since Charlie Battery Soldiers were called to support a federal deployment. McCann, who has served as the battery’s senior platoon leader, the executive officer, and now the commander, sees the battery moving foward.
“I look forward to continuing to set high standards across the board as one of the top three units in the state for readiness; while maintaining high standards in training,” McCann concluded.