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2-8 FA third to field howitzer during live fire exercise

Leadership and Soldiers from 2-8 FA, brace themselves during a shockwave blast from a recently fired M-777 as a part of a live-fire excercise at the Breaching Facility on Fort Wainwright Range.  Photo by Spc. Brooks Fletcher/20th PAD.

Spc. Brooks Fletcher

20th PAD

 The 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, conducted a comprehensive M-777 howitzer live-fire exercise at the Breaching Facility on Fort Wainwright Range March 28 through April 18.

The exercise was an accumulation of multiple tasks, which lead to the unit’s final validation on their newly-acquired artillery pieces, said Capt. Jeremy Linney, B Battery commander. The individual batteries of the battalion performed the certification.

Linney, a Memphis, Tenn., native, explained the exercise was a two-part operation. First, crews trained on proficiency, and then they validated their ability to effectively operate the M-777.

From setting up the howitzer to learning the new, more intuitive interface, the crew teams ensured they had the artillery set up and fully functional in record time.

“(Batteries) went from setting up in eight minutes to an impressive two minutes,” Linney said. “That’s what makes this weapon so lethal.”

The M-777 is much lighter and more maneuverable, making it more efficient than its predecessor, the M-198.

Staff Sgt. Jeromy Woodburn, B Battery section chief, said the exercise served as not only refresher training, but also as a chance for the Soldiers to familiarize themselves with the M-198’s successor.

Linney said Soldier training remains an important aspect of validation, as the new weapon system plays an integral part in preparation for the battalion’s future deployment.

“The most important part is the crew training,” Linney said, recognizing his company as they maintained high levels of motivation.

The battalion is the third unit in the Army to field the M-777, and although minor setbacks are a part of becoming familiar with the new equipment, such as using the weapon in Alaska’s arctic environment, Linney said he is confident the weapon is an essential addition to the unit.

With the live fire completed, he said the 2-8th plans to conduct collective training at Donnelly Training Area in the upcoming months, incorporating pre-deployment tasks through tactical scenarios.