By Sgt. Jesse Elbouab
133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launcher crews from 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery successfully completed the joint force HIMARS rapid infiltration (HI RAIN) mission as a coordinated effort with the 123rd Airlift Wing in Louisville, Kentucky, Aug. 6, 2020.
“We will load two HIMARS on a C-17 and fly to a determined location.” Said, Major Jason Simpson, Administrative Officer and Operations Officer, 1-623d. “This training will allow us to move forward on the battlefield to range a target or conduct a raid mission where we would fly in to the front line of troops, land, conduct a quick raid-type fire mission, quickly load back up on the aircraft and return back to safety.”
Last year was the first time 1-623d completed this mission in its entirety. It is a complex operation that spans beyond the battalion. For this particular operation, the 1-623d collaborated with Airmen from the 123 AW in Louisville, the 14th/3rd Airlift Squadron from Charleston, South Carolina, and an observer-coach/trainer team assigned to the 2-306th Field Artillery, First Army, from Fort Stewart, Georgia.
In addition to all of the challenges of getting so many moving parts together, the coronavirus pandemic did not make the training any easier. The Soldiers and Airmen had to adapt to the military’s fluid standard operational procedures for a safe and successful day.
Simpson reports that there have been zero positive cases for the battalion over the course of the Annual Training week.
“We feel strongly about the precautions we have in place so that we can still effectively train and be ready for anything that may happen.” Simpson said. “We’re still conducting the training, still conducting our missions, still doing all of our safety measures, and we’re not going let that [pandemic] stop us.”
“There was always a chance it could get canceled,” said Spc. Charlie Henson, driver for a HIMARS launcher team assigned to Alpha Battery in Tompkinsville, Ky. “We’ve been keeping a social distance, wearing masks, doing everything we’re supposed to do to make sure we’re staying safe and not getting sick. If we feel the slightest bit sick, we are required to go to sick call and get checked out, immediately.”
Over the past week, Soldiers from the 623rd have been conducting a range of training missions as a part of their annual certification process. In the past, these Soldiers have conducted all steps of this training, without actually taking the HIMARS in flight. This joint force effort between Army and Air Guard allowed the unit to finally experience their culminating event in their home state.
“You’ve got to have the aircraft,” said Col. Ronnie Barnes, commander of the 138th Field Artillery Brigade. “That alone is a challenge. We don’t have an aircraft and there is a lot of moving parts to manage to gain access to one. With that being said, any coordination we can do to be able to work with our other sister services works out great.”
The team of two launchers were able to get their HIMARS safely on and off the C-17. Once offloaded, the teams assumed their positions for a dry fire exercise. The goal is to complete this task in less than 15 minutes. However, both teams completed their tasks, collectively, in less than ten minutes.
“They were absolutely perfect,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Carter, HIMARS observer-coach/trainer with 2-306th FA. “That’s definitely what you want, because a rapid insertion is designed to get you in, fire the mission, and get you back out as fast and as safe as possible. They definitely exceeded that standard today.”
The successful completion of this mission has the Soldiers and command team in high spirits as they wrap up their annual certification process.
“This is the highlight of my annual training,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Marcum, launcher section chief assigned to Bravo Battery in Monticello, Ky. “I’ve shot plenty of rockets before. But, I’ve never done this. When I go back and talk to my family and tell them I loaded our launcher on a C-17 and flew around and back down, it’s pretty cool.”