1st Battalion 22nd Infantry


Mortar Platoon Fire Mission

Staff Sgt. Craig Pickett, Task Force Ironhorse Public Affairs Office and 350th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

TIKRIT, Iraq – The peaceful night is shattered by a thunderous boom. Soldiers throughout Forward Operating Base Ironhorse become tense until they find out it was a friendly boom delivered by Mortar Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-22 Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Division.

     The blast is a good sound for the mortar men from Fort Hood, Texas. For the past three months, they have been patrolling, conducting check points, and manning a detention facility. Now they are finally doing what they love; dropping a 38-pound mortar round down a long metal cylinder and feeling the shockwave as it exits the tube.

     “ I love my job,” said Pfc. Brian Dennis, a mortar man from Fresno, Calif. “It’s the excitement of dropping the round.”

     The round of choice is a 120 millimeter shell, comprised of composition B explosive. Horseshoe-shaped cheese charges are used to propel the round from the tube. Depending on the distance to the target and the hang time desired, one to four charges are used.

     A lot of punch is packed into one charge. On a recent fire mission, that one charge was enough to send the conical killer 3,800 meters and kept it in the air for 36.6 seconds.

     Not only is the one charge responsible for the loud blast that echoes through camp, it even shakes the very building that houses the mortar platoon.

     “ Even with one charge, pieces of the house are falling off,” said Sgt. Ricky Hines, from Dallas, Texas, who works in the fire direction center.

     Lately, fire missions occur nightly and the booms can be heard throughout the night. Mortars platoon leader, 1st Lt. Colin Crow, explained they fire for two reasons. One is for a show of force “just to remind people we can do it,” he said.

     Crow, from Shreveport, La., also said they fire the mortars to register them. “There are so many factors that affect them that it helps when you are in a fixed position. It is more accurate when you are not going to move.”

     Their accuracy can be pinpoint thanks to the fire direction center. Hines and his crew man a M113 personnel carrier and they are the ones responsible for inputting the data provided from the forward observers and calling it out to the gun crews.

     “ We can hit metal to metal,” said Hines, commenting on their accuracy.

     Hines explained the FOs call in a ten-digit grid coordinate and his crew will work up the data and give it to the guns. They will fire one round and the FOs will observe it and call back with adjustments.

     “ We’ll input it in the computer and send it out to the guns to fire for affect,” said Hines.

     The effect can be deadly for anyone standing inside the 70 meter killing radius. The mortar can reach out and touch an enemy target over 7,000 meters away or as close as 166 meters.

     Crow said these missions are great for his soldiers. “Not only is this practice, but it is great for morale,” he said.

     Not only do the soldiers love sending high explosives into the sky, they are letting all the subversive groups within earshot know, they have the firepower to reach them.

(Staff Sgt. Craig Pickett is a member of the 350th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, a reserve unit from Indianapolis, Ind. He is currently deployed to South West Asia with the 4th Infantry Division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.)

Spc. Tyler Gross carries a 38-pound 120 millimeter mortar round to the gun tube in preparation for the night’s fire mission

The above is taken from the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) Website

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