Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Battery B Changes, Grows During Deployment

Staff Sgt. Dan Bates, left, from Dickson, Tenn., with Battery B, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, helps an instructor assigned to the 16th Military Police Brigade, from Fort Bragg, N.C., demonstrate self-defense techniques during a class at the Bucca Detention Facility in Umm Qasar, Iraq. Artillerymen from 1-10 FA guarded detainees at the facility for eight months, March 15.

Sgt. Vincent Anderson, from Fort Pierce, Fla., with Battery B, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, conducts tower guard duty at the Bucca Detention Facility in Umm Qasar, Iraq, March 15. Artillerymen from 1-10 FA guarded detainees at the facility for eight months.

By Spc. Ben Hutto,
3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team,
3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – From guarding detainees at the Bucca Detention Facility in Umm Qasar, to helping the British army defend Basra Air Base, to patrolling the streets of Narhwan and executing fire support missions at Forward Operating Base Hammer, Soldiers of Battery B, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, have done everything asked of them during their deployment to Iraq.

Their duties changed many times during their current deployment, but Battery B Soldiers met each new task without complaint, said 1st Sgt. Michael Patton, from Memphis, Tenn., first sergeant of Battery B.

“No matter what we have been asked to do, we have stepped up,” he said. “We say we not only have done what we were asked to do, we’ve always exceeded the standard doing it.”

Patton’s Soldiers worked hard to reach their current level of success.

Battery B honed their field artillery skills for eight months back at Fort Benning, Ga., home of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, and at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. While at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, the battalion learned they would be leaving the 3rd HBCT and going to the Bucca Detention Facility. At the facility, they would guard detainees instead of shooting rounds down range.

“It was a challenge,” said Sgt. Donovan Ford, from Butler, Ala., a section sergeant in Battery B. “The ratio was at least 10 detainees to one of us. We had to be very careful and deliberate. Every time you thought you’re going to get a break, they were up to something. They were constantly thinking of ways to get out.”

To prepare for their new duty, the battery went through two weeks of intensive training.

“The training was challenging,” Ford said. “For 12 hours a day we worked hard to learn everything we needed to know.”

The Soldiers learned detainee control techniques, riot squad tactics and were sprayed with mace as part of their training.

Despite the difficulties, the training paid off. No one in the battery was seriously injured during their eight month stay there.

The Soldiers were able to learn things from the detainees there, too.

“It was amazing to see the dedication some of them had,” Ford said. “Those guys would adapt anything into a shovel. They would dig tunnels that were six feet deep and nine feet long in 48 hours using only their hands and makeshift tools. That shows you something about their commitment. They aren’t lazy. Whether they were motivated to get out and escape, or get out and try and attack us, they were motivated. I think we all learned not to underestimate them.”

Before the battery rejoined the 3rd HBCT at FOB Hammer, many of them traveled to Basra Air Base to help British soldiers in Battery A, First Royal Horse Artillery Regiment with counter-fire missions.

“I enjoyed working with the Brits,” said Staff Sgt. Thierry Miley, from Panama City, Fla., a cannon crew chief of one of the battery’s M109A6 Paladins. “When we first arrived there, we got mortared every day. By the time we left, the number of attacks had gone down because of our counter-fire missions. It was good to help out and help secure the area.”

Capt. Chris Vegas, from Douglassville, Ga., commander of Battery B, said that 1-10 FA’s performance earned them high marks with the British army.

“All of our guys understand the significance of what we do,” he said. “I think they take a lot of pride in their job. Our NCOs (non-commissioned officers) do a good job of making sure there are no bumps in the road and that shows in our performance in places like Bucca. We work well with others.”

The battalion’s return to FOB Hammer was well-received by the members of the battery.

“It’s always nice to be with your brigade,” Vegas said. “We were glad to be back here. The two stops in between actually helped the deployment go by quicker.”

Their return did not slow down their schedule, though.

“We’ve got Soldiers all over the AO (area of operation),” Patton said. “We’ve got Soldiers down at Combat Outpost Cleary helping the Georgian army. We have Soldiers out at Combat Outpost Salie doing combat patrols. It can be tough because we have to split up again, but our Soldiers have adapted well.”

Vegas has seen his junior leaders grow as a result of the battery’s work load.

“Obviously, we couldn’t have our senior leaders everywhere,” he said. “It has freed us up to allow our young leaders to make decisions without us looking over their shoulders. This is a great place to learn and having our guys spread out has allowed them to grow as leaders. I am one of those leaders who believes that people learn from experience and our leaders are getting that out here.”
Vegas’ first sergeant agrees with him.

“If you look at how we are performing, you can see we have matured a lot,” Patton said. “We have young sergeants stepping up and running gun lines and leading combat patrols. That experience will pay off down the road.”

Ford thinks his current deployment has improved his perspective on the future of the Army and the future of Iraq.

“The Army is not a 9-to-5 job,” Ford said. “Our Soldiers know that they are part of something they can leave their mark on. Everyone here wants to be a winner. They want to make history. The Soldiers in Battery B want their grandchildren to read about this war and say their grandfather did that.”

Ford expressed his pride in the leaders of Battery B, but explained that leadership is a constantly evolving process.

“The people that are going to make the Army great 20 years from now, are privates right now,” he said. “Iraq is making the men that will carry our Army into the future. This deployment is making leaders and Iraq will be their foundation. One day they will look back and realize this place made them the leaders that they have become.”

The 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.

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