CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- In a noncombat environment, a Marine Corps artillery battery is comprised of two platoons containing one type of weapon system, either M777A2 Howitzer cannons or High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers. However, the Marines of Tango Battery, 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, aboard Camps Bastion and Leatherneck have a unique makeup for an artillery battery.
“We’re a hybrid battery, both a cannons platoon and a HIMARS platoon, and we’re here supporting all operations in Regional Command (Southwest),” said 1st Lt. Michael Wish, the executive officer of Tango Battery, and native of Colorado Springs, Colo.
“Both platoons bring a great capability to the fight. You need both of those capabilities, especially in an environment like we’re in here. They complement each other, so if you were to miss one of those capabilities it would be a significant gap in your surface-to-surface fires.”
While Cannons Platoon’s operational flexibility allows them to combat the closer fight, their brothers in HIMARS Platoon are able to reach out further and with greater precision.
“Cannons are important because they can shoot closer than HIMARS,” said Sgt. Steven Soper, a section chief with Tango Batter, and a native of El Dorado, Kan. “We have other rounds, so we can do other things besides just blow stuff up. The illume mission is important because it shows the enemy that we’re watching, as well as lighting up the area for infantry units.”
The rounds utilized during HIMARS missions are strictly high explosive. The cannons, however, can be used for various missions due to the diversity of rounds available for the howitzer including high explosives, smoke and illumination. Illumination missions have been the most common for Tango Battery since their arrival in January from Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The Marines in HIMARS Platoon, however, boast in the accuracy as well as the effects they are able to achieve due to the missions they conduct.
“Our ability to hit so close to the target and neutralize the target without taking any collateral damage allows the people to see that we’re here to help them rather than just destroy stuff,” said Sgt. Kevin Toledo, a launcher chief with Tango Battery, and a native of Naperville, Ill. “(Precision) is important for the fact that with the rockets and their capability you’re not going to have any collateral damage. It’s going to keep all the surroundings intact, but at the same time it will eliminate the enemy threat.”
“The best part of the job is the pride that comes with it, teaching the motivation to my Marines, the simple fact that Marines’ lives get saved every time a rocket goes down range,” said Cpl. Michael Rivera, a field artillery fire controlman with Tango Battery, and a native of Brooklyn, N.Y. “I tell my Marines we’re responsible – if we get a call for fire – to bring husbands back to their wives and kids. Every rocket we send down range means Marines come home, so that gives us comfort and pride in what we do.”