‘The hill’ has eyes

Watching on the hill, Staff Sgt. Allen Godsey (left), Lt. Col. Terry Mast (center), 1-129th Field Artillery battalion commander, and Staff Sgt. Andrew Barnes (right) observe a 155 mm round enter the impact zone while at Fort Riley, Kan. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)

Watching on the hill, Staff Sgt. Allen Godsey (left), Lt. Col. Terry Mast (center), 1-129th Field Artillery battalion commander, and Staff Sgt. Andrew Barnes (right) observe a 155 mm round enter the impact zone while at Fort Riley, Kan. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)

By Jennifer Archdekin
ngmo.pao@us.army.mil

FORT RILEY, Kan. - In the world of field artillery the all-seeing eyes on the observation point watch closely from afar keeping track of potential targets. Forward observers sit atop what is commonly known as "the hill," accessing the situation and determining if support by fire is needed.

This scenario was recently used by the 1-129th Field Artillery during a live-fire exercise at Fort Riley, Kan. More than 400 Citizen-Soldiers were on the ground along with their 18 M777A2 lightweight howitzers.

These forward observers initiate the call for fire and request adjustments. They usually work as a team with one person spotting, or watching the target and where the rounds land, and the other logging and transmitting information to the battalion fire direction center.

Staff Sgt. Allen Godsey, of Maryville, sits on the hill and serves as both a forward observer and a surveyor. For this exercise his teammate, and fellow observer, was Staff Sgt. Andrew Barnes, of Kansas City, who serves with the 1-138th Infantry Regiment in Kansas City.

By having experience from the field artillery and infantry it allowed both men to learn from each other.

According to Godsey, artillery is an area fire weapon and pinpoint accuracy isn't necessary, however it is crucial the rounds fired hit the specified target to keep civilian and friendlies safe, as well as remain cost effective.

When the field artillery conducts live-fire exercises there are several different components that go into 'putting steel on target.' The hill determines the need for a mission, computes the location, and provides a description of the target area. They then contact the battalion fire direction center who contacts the battery fire direction center to execute the mission.

These observers are providing coordinates and other data to neutralize the targets.

"This is very important," said Barnes. "In a real-world situation we can't have a round that goes way off. We need to ensure we have good data and everyone is on target where they need to be."

Godsey said there are a lot of variables that go into that such as weather, temperature, humidity, altitude and even computing the rotation of the earth.

"As opposed to a rifle that shoots straight at a target, the howitzers shoot up in the air allowing wind, for instance, to catch the round and shift it on the way to the target," said Barnes.

Godsey and Barnes said they could easily swap job between the units as forward observers.

"It's important for us to work together because we may have to in a real-world environment," said Godsey.

Barnes said he needs to be familiar with both mission sets -- artillery and infantry -- such as the different weapons systems, their ranges and capabilities. When Barnes is with his infantry unit he performs in much of the same way on the hill, but directing mortar fire instead of howitzers.

The 1-129th is headquartered in Maryville, with batteries in Albany, Chillicothe and Independence.

Headquartered in Kansas City, the 1-138th has infantry units located in Anderson, Boonville, Jefferson City, Monett, Perryville and St. Louis.

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