MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
As technology advances throughout history, old ideas and equipment retire to pave the way for the new.
The Marines and sailors of 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., are retiring their old M198 howitzers to make way for the newly-developed High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.
“In our current global conflict, it is imperative that a battery can provide accurate and timely fire,” said 1st Lt. Robert M. Regedanz, fire direction officer, Sierra Battery, 5/11. “The war on terror is fought in an urban environment where collateral damage often prevents indirect fire from being used. The transition of 5/11 to HIMARS allows maneuver elements the ability to integrate fire support assets into combined arms operations while reducing unwanted collateral damage.”
Sierra, or “Spartan,” Battery, fired their final rounds from the M198s today in support of the MCB Camp Lejeune, N.C., based 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment’s Mojave Viper pre-deployment training before putting them into retirement.
Spartan Battery expressed feelings of both excitement and dismay toward the transition to HIMARS.
“I’ve been in artillery for a while and I’m kind of sad to see the 198s go,” said Sgt. Othello Pryor Sr., Gun 1 section chief, Spartan Battery, 5/11. “However, I feel motivated to transition to a new weapons system that is more deadly. HIMARS has a lot more explosive payload and can shoot much farther than the 198s.”
The HIMARS has an average range of approximately 43 miles, which is significantly more than the M198s maximum range of approximately 18.75 miles. In addition, the HIMARS can fire rockets guided by the global positioning system, while the M198’s rounds are guided entirely by a forward observer.
“The M198 has been good and faithful, but the HIMARS is more up-to-date, more accurate and less work,” said Cpl. Jeremy White, gunner for Gun 1, Spartan Battery, 5/11.
Another question raised among the Spartans is what will happen to the crews, since the HIMARS only requires three people to operate it, as opposed to the nine-man crews required for the M198s.
“Everyone’s going to have to learn a different job,” said Cpl. Kyle J. Haman, an artilleryman for Gun 2, Spartan Battery, 5/11. “Since the HIMARS has a smaller crew, the biggest question is what our new jobs will be and if we’re all staying together.”
Despite a few questions and concerns from the Spartans, the overall feeling about the HIMARS is a positive one.
“Battery S is highly motivated to be a part of a new era in the Marine Corps’ artillery fight against all types of enemies,” said Regedanz. “The HIMARS platform will provide maneuver commanders with the ability to engage short range and deep targets with deadly lethality and pinpoint accuracy.”
Capt. Todd D. McCarthy, Spartan Battery commanding officer, feels his Marines will be able to quickly and easily adapt to the HIMARS.
“I’ve been doing this for 12 years, so I know it’s tough to give up what you know so well,” he said. “However, I think the Marines are excited about the new technology. HIMARS is making Marine artillery relevant on the new battlefield.
“Sierra Battery has proved its ability to deliver timely, accurate and deadly cannon fire against the enemies of our great nation,” he added. “Now, we write a new page in Marine Corps history and will prove our ability to deliver deadly rocket fire on our enemies.”
Spartan Battery will begin their transition to the HIMARS in October. Tango Battery and elements of 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment have already fully adapted to the HIMARS. Romeo Battery is currently deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, but will make the change when they return from their deployment.
The Spartans will become the second active duty battery in the Marine Corps to fire the HIMARS in an operational environment when they deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom next year.