FORT KNOX, Ky. –
The sounds of rockets could be heard for miles around the base as the Soldiers of the 1st Battalion 623rd Field Artillery Regiment conducted their annual live fire exercise (LFX) during their annual training June 15-30.
However, this LFX was not just a training event.
The 1/623rd utilized this requirement to showcase its capabilities to McCreary County’s Junior Reserves Officers Training Corps (JROTC) and demonstrated a joint training effort by certifying a crew from the 238th Regional Training Institute and hosting Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) from the 123rd Airlift Wing, Kentucky Air National Guard.
The 1/623rd is a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) Battalion. HIMARS are a full-spectrum, combat-proven, all-weather, 24/7, lethal and responsive, wheeled precision strike weapons system.
Operational with a crew of three Soldiers and equipped with a launch pad of either six-guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) rockets or one Army Tactical Missile System, the HIMARS has proven to be an effective, precise and accessible weapon during times of combat.
McCreary County JROTC, taught by the former 1/623rd Headquarters and Headquarters Battery first sergeant, came out to the LFX. It was an excellent opportunity for young adults to see the capabilities of the Kentucky National Guard, meet Soldiers within the unit, and see what the National Guard can offer them.
“The National Guard is here to serve the community, so it is always exciting when the community can come to see what we can do,” said 1st Lt. Alex Vanhoose, the Fire Direction Officer for Bravo Battery 1/623d. “I talked to them about how the National Guard helped me pay for college and set me up for success in my career. It was a great way to talk to people who could want to join one day.”
For the first time in history, the 238th RTI certified a crew of instructors. This joint training effort allowed more training for the Alpha Battery Fire Direction Center (FDC) and created hands-on training for the instructors.
“Being able to participate in the LFX actually allowed one of our instructors to meet the certifications needed to become an Advanced Leader Course instructor,” said Sgt. 1st Class England, course manager for 238th RTI. “It is a great opportunity for our instructors to do what they teach and helps us to maintain a relationship with the 623rd.”
The training institute has instructed numerous Soldiers of the 623rd and assists with training and evaluations throughout the year. Many students and instructors from the RTI originated from the 1/623rd resulting in a close-knit and ongoing relationship.
Along with the joint training of the 238th RTI, Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the 123rd were there to observe and learn the fire mission process.
JTACs are the certified ground personnel that give targeting data to fires and aircraft during close air support situations. They are part of the Air Force that helps to maximize lethal first-round fire for effect fires on the battlefield. Their goal is to maximize fires to meet the Ground Force Commander’s (GFC) intent on the battlefield. The purpose of the JTAC team observing the LFX was to see how a fire mission is processed, understand the capabilities of the HIMARS weapon system, and know how to implement it in support of Air Force operations.
Staff Sgt. Keith Schneider, 123rd STS, was one of the JTACs that came to observe the exercise.
“Viewing the HIMARS was a great experience, and we learned a lot by actually being there and seeing them employ,” Schneider said. “We got a chance to talk with the guys and let them know our role as well and really grow that relationship so that we can train and work with those guys in the future.”
Maj. Simpson the Administrative Officer for 1/623rd was pleased with the weekend, and felt that the battalion is moving in a direction to capitalize on more joint operations and opportunities to demonstrate the capabilities of long-range artillery.
"The ability to showcase our abilities, equipment and Soldiers is an opportunity we'll take any time we get the chance. From showing what we do on drill weekends to JROTC students to certifying the first crew of 238th RTI Instructors, working on a joint mission with the KY Air National Guard special operations group, we have met our future, worked with our peers, and prepared for joint missions. I am so proud of our professional Soldiers and what we do every drill weekend.”