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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota Guard Red Leg artillery trains with U.S. Army in Kuwait

“FIRE MISSION!”  This shout could be heard bellowing from the back of the M109A6 Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzers as Minnesota National Guard Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, conducted live-fire exercises at the Udairi Range near Camp Buehring, Kuwait in February 2012  

Lt Col Troy Soukup, commander, 1st BN, 125th FA, listed artillery training as one of his top goals while his Soldiers performed security force missions across southern Kuwait in order to maintain proficiency in their military occupational specialties  After months of preparation and planning, this goal was accomplished with the help of the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division



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The 1st Bn, 125th FA deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in July 2011  The battalion’s missions included providing security for Camp Patriot, Kuwait Naval Base (KNB) and the Seaport of Debarkation/Embarkation; providing quick reaction forces at Camp Patriot, KNB, and Camp Arifjan; providing an area reaction force for southern Kuwait; and providing the camp command cell for Camp Patriot  None of these missions are standard for a field artillery battalion  “As artillerymen, it is our goal to prove our capabilities not only as a maneuver task force, but to do what we Red Legs are meant to do—fire howitzers,” said Lt Col Soukup

The artillery training was conducted at Camp Buehring in two iterations—the first from February 1 to February 8, 2012, and the second from February 10 to February 17, 2012  The 1st BN, 82nd FA, an active duty unit deployed to Camp Buehring, provided the training  Soldiers from the 1st BN, 125th FA spent the first three days of the iterations in the classroom brushing up on their artillery knowledge, primarily focused on safety, and completing a test that required 90 percent or greater to pass  The next two days were spent on the guns and in the fire direction centers (FDC) practicing dry-fire missions to familiarize the Soldiers with crew drills  The sixth day consisted of the Table V dry-fire certification for the gun and FDC crews 

During this certification, Master Sgt Aaron Wilfahrt, master gunner, 1st BN, 125th FA; 1st Sgt Robert Newman, first sergeant, A Battery, 1st BN, 125th FA; 1st Sgt George Jensen, 1st sergeant, B Battery, 1st BN, 125th FA; Cpt John Mastbergen, commander, A Battery, 1st BN, 125th FA; and Cpt Joseph Beatty, commander, B Battery, 1st BN, 125th FA, observed and certified their Soldiers when they were confident that live fire could be conducted safely and efficiently

In the early morning of the seventh day, the Soldiers of the 1st BN, 125th FA arrived at the motor pool with their counterparts from the 1st BN, 82nd FA to prepare for the convoy to Udairi Range  A long line of Paladins, ammo carriers, and HMMWVs rolled across the desert with the rising sun as a backdrop  After arriving, emplacing, and ensuring positive communications, the Soldiers of the 1st BN, 125th FA fired their first live artillery rounds in a combat theater since World War II  At the end of the training a total of 299 rounds were fired with zero safety incidents  Additionally, 12 gun crews were Table VI live fire certified, 2 FDC crews were Table VI live fire certified, and 2 FDC crews were Table V dry fire certified

It is not often that the Minnesota National Guard gets the opportunity to train alongside active duty Soldiers  Many of the Soldiers from the 1st BN, 82nd FA have multiple deployments under their belts and have fired thousands of rounds in combat  This experience proved invaluable to the Soldiers of the 1st BN, 125th FA  “Attending the training gave the crews the opportunity to learn new techniques and responsibilities from an active duty unit  It was a good refresher for those with experience and good training for those new to the positions,” said Sgt 1st Class William Hawker, platoon sergeant, B Battery, 1st BN, 125th FA

On March 14, 2012, Lt Col Soukup and Command Sgt Maj Joseph Eustice, command sergeant major, 1st Bn, 125th FA, made the trip from Camp Patriot to Camp Buehring to present a special gift to the command team of the 1st Bn, 82nd FA  The gift was a folded Minnesota state flag in a wooden display case with a plaque detailing the appreciation for the assistance with the training exercises  Lt Col Edmond Brown, commander, 1st Bn, 82nd FA, accepted the gift with a smile and thanked the 1st Bn, 125th FA  Afterwards, Lt Col Brown made a remark that summed up the relationship between active duty and reserve component Soldiers: “That howitzer doesn’t care if you are active duty or National Guard  When [Soldiers] are in the gun, they are all the same”

Feb 17, 2012
By 1st Lt Sean Carstensen
1st Brigade Combat Team




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