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101st Airborne Division names “Strike” 3rd Brigade Combat Team artillery battery “Top Gun”

Posted By News Staff On Tuesday, November 20, 2012 @ 6:00 am In News | No Comments

Written by Sgt. Grant Matthes
101st Airborne Division Public Affairs

Fort Campbell KY, 101st Airborne DivisionFort Campbell, KY – Artillerymen with the 101st Airborne Division waited seven years to have a shot at a red muzzle cover and the distinction of being known as the division’s “Top Gun” unit.

The day finally came as six artillery batteries competed in the “Best Howitzer” competition this past week to claim the title and take the prize back to their brigade.

The winning team from year’s competition was Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.

Soldiers with Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division conduct rigging operations on a M-119 Howitzer during a division “Top Gun” competition here Nov. 14-15. The competition was held to see who the division’s best artillery section is. (Photo by Sgt. Grant Matthes, 101st Airborne Division Public Affairs) [1]

Soldiers with Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division conduct rigging operations on a M-119 Howitzer during a division “Top Gun” competition here Nov. 14-15. The competition was held to see who the division’s best artillery section is. (Photo by Sgt. Grant Matthes, 101st Airborne Division Public Affairs)

“Regardless of where you placed speaks a lot for itself to come out here and compete and to represent your units,” said 101st Airborne Division Command Sgt. Maj. Alonzo J. Smith. “This event was put together because there were several things we wanted to achieve within the division, not just to see who is the top gun of the division.”

The two-day competition consisted of six phases to include a mystery event as their final challenge. Lt. Col. Thomas Bolen, 101st Airborne Division chief of fires, said the competition was intended to give an idea about the standards are across all the battalions that are participating.

“The whole idea behind the division best howitzer competition is to get the best sections out of the artillery battalions competing against one another, so the expectation is to give a great effort out here on their core competency, which is artillery,” Bolen said.

Spc. Ricky Pearson lifts camouflage netting to keep it above the head of Staff Sgt. Tyler Chatfield during the 101st Airborne Division Top Gun competition, held Nov. 14-15, at Fort Campbell. Pearson and Chatfield serve as crewmembers of an M-119 Howitzer with Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st. (Photo by Sgt. David Hodge, 101st Airborne Division Public Affairs) [2]

Spc. Ricky Pearson lifts camouflage netting to keep it above the head of Staff Sgt. Tyler Chatfield during the 101st Airborne Division Top Gun competition, held Nov. 14-15, at Fort Campbell. Pearson and Chatfield serve as crewmembers of an M-119 Howitzer with Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st. (Photo by Sgt. David Hodge, 101st Airborne Division Public Affairs)

The morning started out with a standard Army Physical Fitness Test immediately followed by a written test. For the day one second and final event, each crew had to apply proper rigging techniques to a howitzer as if it were going to be sling loaded.

At day two, the competitors were timed and evaluated on how fast they could disassemble and reassemble the breach of a howitzer. They then had to prepare their guns for firing, conduct fire missions using shotgun rounds and then had to conduct hasty displacement, where they had to pack up and roll out as quickly as possible.

In the event of a tie, there was a mystery event that consisted of one competitor from each battery to properly assess a roleplaying casualty.

The winning team’s battery is scheduled to receive a streamer for their guidon, a red muzzle-cover along with each of the winners securing a slot in Fort Campbell’s Pathfinder School.

According to Sgt. Maj. Eddie Jackson, 101st Airborne Division fires sergeant major, the red muzzle-cover represents the best at that level. At the battery level, the best howitzer section is normally the base piece or center battery and normally gets all of the praise and glory.

Spc. William Moynihan, a competitor with Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, served in the cannon crew as the Number One spot, which is responsible for operating the breach and ejecting spent casings. Moynihan also was part of the advanced party by providing site reconnaissance and area setup.

Moynihan, who is from Moscow, Tennessee, said this was his first Top Gun competition. He said he wasn’t part of the original crew until recently, when he was pulled into the team because of injuries to other Soldiers.

Moynihan said the crew has been practicing nonstop and training each day for the last week before the competition began. He also said he would have liked more time to train to the battalion standard for operating the crew-served weapon.

“In my opinion, we did pretty well,” he said. “There’s always room for improvements.”

“I am really pleased with how the competition went,” said Bolen. “I couldn’t have been happier with the effort that has been put out.” “Our next goal is to have the next competition be live-fire for the fire missions.”


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