Missouri National Guard mortar men fire rounds in Japan

The mortar platoon's second gun of the Missouri Army National Guard's Headquarters Co., 1-138th Infantry Regiment fires the first few U.S. mortar rounds of the Orient Shield exercise in Kami-Furano, Japan. The focus of the exercise is to develop tactical, bilateral operations and war fighting skills between the U.S. and Japanese militaries. (Photo by Capt. Carrie Lamm-Clark)

By Capt. Carrie Lamm-Clark

Kami-Furano, Japan - The Missouri Army National Guard's 1/138th Infantry Regiment is making great strides while participating in Orient Shield, a collaborative training exercise with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces. The focus of the two-week exercise is developing tactical, bilateral operations and war fighting skills between the U.S. and Japanese militaries.

Recently, mortar crews fired mortar weapons systems for adjustment, sending rounds down range, where forward observers watched where the rounds hit. The forward observers reported back for the crew to make corrections.

There were two phases to the training-functional training and comprehensive training. During the functional portion, the gun crew was able to fire live rounds. During the comprehensive field training exercise, the mortar men did participate in a live-fire exercise; instead they set their sights, ensuring correct data and proceeded to go through the firing motions to become quicker and more precise.

Sgt. Daniel Moore, of St. Joseph, Mo., is the gun leader for the second gun crew, mortar platoon of Headquarters Co., 1/138th Infantry Regiment. He said he has good Soldiers who are making dramatic improvements on their gun drills and mortar firing procedures.

"Any day I can fire mortars is a great day," said Moore.

In order to prepare for the Orient Shield exercise, Moore's mortar platoon conducted dry runs, as their weapons had been sent a few months before to Japan. He said that one of the biggest differences in training here versus training in the Midwest is the weather conditions.

"We are in the mountains of Northern Japan and it is very foggy," said Moore.

As the gun leader, Moore ensures the gun team does everything safely. He checks to make sure the fuse is set correctly, the charges are correct, and that the data on the weapon site is correct, all while motivating the gun team members to have a sense of urgency.

Moore said he keeps track of everything that happens on the gun, because he is responsible for it. Safety is foremost. He has to make sure the correct "cheese charge," or the extra propellant for the round, is correct.

Pfc. Brandon Henks, from Lees's Summit, is the gunner on Moore's crew. Gunners typically hold a higher rank, so this is very rare opportunity for Henks.

The 1/138th was stood up just over two years ago in Missouri and is still a relatively new unit. The roughly 200 Missouri Guardsmen currently in Japan have been training for nearly two years for this unique experience.

"It is cool to see the unit build up and to be a part of this new unit," said Henks. "If we deploy, I will be able to see the products of our work and what we have built together."

Henks is currently pursuing a degree in business administration from the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.

Moore is pursuing a degree in business at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. In order to participate in Orient Shield, he had to take two weeks off from his classes.

"I could fail all my classes this semester in college and it wouldn't matter, as long as I was able to be here and do this," said Moore jokingly.

Approximately 400 National Guard members from six states are working with about 200 Soldiers from the Japanese military. The Missouri National Guard is playing a big role.

There is only one mortar platoon in the 1/138th. The regiment is headquartered in Kansas City and maintains units in St. Louis, Boonville, Perryville, Monett, Anderson and Jefferson City.

For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-800-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.

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