FORT BRAGG, N.C. – The average working American goes to his
or her job every day, watches the world's events unfold on
the news, and goes to sleep soundly at night, often
disconnected from the dozens of conflicts unfolding across
the globe. They do this because of the service and
often-great personal sacrifice of the men and women of the
United States Army.
U.S. Soldiers, paratroopers with the 2nd Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepare to jump from a C-17 military transport aircraft for an airborne operation at Fort Bragg, N.C., April 9, 2013. The operation included live-fire exercises to test the readiness of Soldiers with the 319th Field Artillery Regiment to deploy anywhere in the world on short notice.
(U.S. Army photo by
Sgt. Joseph Guenther)
Among those soldiers are those who stand ready to deploy at
a moment's notice: the “Falcon Brigade." These airborne
warriors are frequently called upon to demonstrate their
ability to deploy to any type of situation ranging from
violent conflict to disaster relief.
This level of
readiness is achieved by various exercises that provide
military leadership with the ability to gauge the quality of
training of soldiers.
On April 9,
2013, the paratroopers of 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne
Field Artillery Regiment demonstrated their skills with an
airborne operation followed immediately by a live-fire
“These guys are phenomenal,” said 1st Sgt.
Joey Ruiz of Battery B. “Everybody knew their task at hand,
and they executed it perfectly.”
artillery soldiers, known as the “Black Falcons,” earned
their pay as they parachuted from the sky out of a C-17
Globemaster onto Normandy Drop Zone. Within minutes, they
were setting up their 105 mm howitzer to hurl high-explosive
rounds directly at the enemy.
There are three
elements of artillery fire: the cannon and its crew, the
fire direction center, and the fire support teams. Every
individual involved must be able to flawlessly do his job so
that rounds hit their targets without risking injury to
friendly forces or noncombatants on the battlefield.
Staff Sgt. Arturo Guerrero, the noncommissioned officer in
charge of the FDC, said that the Black Falcons are the very
best artillery unit he has ever been in.
served as an artilleryman for more than eight years, and
described the speed and skill of paratroopers as superior to
“Here you hit the ground running and
within a few minutes, get rounds down range,” Guerrero said.
He said, “The attention to detail and knowledge of the
soldiers here surpass a lot of the units out there.”
Before a single round can be fired, a fire support team must
first observe the target area.
Known as the “eyes of
the artillery,” this special group of paratroopers spots the
enemy and determines their location on a map.
ready, they call the fire direction center to request
artillery fire on the target. They can also request special
types of fire missions, such as smoke to screen the
maneuvers of friendly forces.
Over the years, the
technology has changed, but the fundamentals have stayed the
same. While many heavy brigades have Strykers and tanks, and
the ability to call for fire with modern computer systems,
paratroopers are often restricted by what they can carry on
their backs out of an airplane.
On Normandy Drop
Zone, only a few feet from the howitzer, the fire direction
center could be seen calculating fire data using only
hand-written data and laminated maps. They were still the
fastest and most accurate fires Guerrero said he had ever
“Here we stay with the old stuff,” he said.
“When you jump, you have to apply your basic knowledge.”
“It's really important that you carry that knowledge
from a private to an NCO so you can accomplish the mission,”
By honoring the decades-old
tradition of NCO-led training, the Black Falcons validated
the skill of its airborne artillerymen. In only one workday,
they rigged equipment, parachuted to a drop zone, set up and
fired live artillery, and packed up to go home. They
accomplished more in a single day than many can expect to do
in an entire week.
Regardless of what crisis happens
in the world, the 82nd Airborne Division is ready to face
it, and they haven proven it once again.
More photos available below
By U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph Guenther
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