Morgan’s Men put on show for family, employers

By Staff Sgt. Michael McGuire, 1/623rd Field Artillery

A High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) fires during a live-fire exercise at Fort Knox, Ky., May 13, 2016. The exercise was in conjunction with the 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery's family day and an Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) event. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael McGuire)

A High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) fires during a live-fire exercise at Fort Knox, Ky., May 13, 2016. The exercise was in conjunction with the 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery’s family day and an Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) event. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael McGuire)

Fort Knox, Ky. — With the last rocket’s glare the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 623d Field Artillery recently gave proof of their Soldiers’ unflagging determination to certify on the military’s most advanced field artillery weapon system.

The 1-623rd Field Artillery – with batteries in Glasgow, Tompkinsville, Monticello and the Forward Support Company in Campbellsville – took full advantage of a window of opportunity to train on and fire the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS at Fort Knox, Kentucky, May 13.

On the morning of the 13th, Soldiers of the unit began making their way to Fort Knox with anticipation of the live-fire event. A year-long schedule of preparation had instilled confidence, determination, and excitement in every Soldier as they readied themselves for the day.

As the batteries arrived they began working on final preparations with their HIMARS crews which consist of a gunner, driver, and launcher chief. Once all preparations are done, the crews are put into position to begin the live fire event. One of those crews in their HIMARS, nicknamed “Big Papa” consisted of Staff Sgt. Jesse Lowe, Sgt. Brad Albertson and Spc. James Barnett of Bravo Battery. Once in position the “Big Papa” is given commands, coordinates, and the command to fire. Then there is a burst of light, smoke, and a deafening boom. According to Barnett, who was on his first HIMARS live-fire mission, can only be described as “pretty freaking awesome.”

Also attending the HIMARS Live Fire event were 10 Soldiers from the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) Section Chief Advanced Leader Course conducted by the 238th Regiment at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Kentucky. They traveled to Fort Knox also to participate in the live-fire exercise.

Capt. Paul Chandler with the 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery narrates a live-fire demonstration to family members at Fort Knox, Ky., May 13, 2016. The unit took the opportunity to combine their family day with a visit to Fort Knox for the live-fire exercise. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brandy Mort)

Capt. Paul Chandler with the 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery narrates a live-fire demonstration to family members at Fort Knox, Ky., May 13, 2016. The unit took the opportunity to combine their family day with a visit to Fort Knox for the live-fire exercise. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brandy Mort)

This was the second time that a HIMARS live-fire has been part of a MLRS crewman course, but something that Regional Training Institutes throughout the country are considering implementing as part of their course of instruction. The partnership between the 623rd and 238th proved that this concept of training is viable, allowing Soldiers to complete ALC while also participating in valuable training exercises with their assigned units and crews. This cooperative effort also resulted in the Soldiers completing the course with very little additional cost to the Kentucky Army National Guard beyond that of a normal drill weekend.

“This cooperation benefits these Soldiers’ training in multiple ways,” said Staff Sgt. Paul England, an instructor at the 238th. “The main one is that it takes all the training they have been given and learned about this past couple of weeks and immediately integrated into their live-fire mission along with their own section or platoon.”

During the last day of the HIMARS live-fire, the battalion had a family day where family and friends were invited to see a demonstration just for them. Those in attendance also got up close and personnel with different types of military equipment and learned what each does. During this demonstration Dallas Williams, the son of Sgt. Michael Williams of Alpha Battery, was selected from the children in attendance to come to the podium and call for a fire mission for the HIMARS to complete.

The Battalion’s Family Assistance Coordinator, Danielle Rice was also in attendance and sang the National Anthem prior to the Live Fire demonstration. She had this to say about the demonstration. “I have a unique prospective serving as the Family Assistance Specialist and as the spouse of a Kentucky National Guardsman. In my job, I have the opportunity to assist Soldiers and their families on a daily basis. Having the privilege to witness the hard work of the Soldiers of the 623rd and the 203rd FSC during the live-fire exercise was an honor. I am so thankful I was able to share in the experience with the families of these brave men and women.”

Also, integrated into the family day was a Boss Lift that was coordinated by the Kentucky Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). The purpose of the Boss Lift Program is to show employers what the military does, and by doing so, make them stronger advocates for ESGR. There were 12 bosses that were nominated by their employees, who are also Guardsmen, to see first-hand some things Guard members do. They were airlifted in a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the Glasgow Regional Airport to Fort Knox, where they were shown various military equipment, talked to Soldiers, and enjoyed the HIMARS live -fire demonstration.

Thomas Bo Matthews, the Barren County School Superintendent was asked what he thought about the Boss Lift and the HIMARS Live Fire. He said, “First of all, the whole experience exceed my exceptions. To begin with the presentation that we were shown at the airport was pretty powerful. I didn’t understand the relationship that the Guard has with our full-time fighting forces and how those percentages has changed throughout our history and how dependent we are right now, on the Guard being a vital component of our fighting force. The ride up to Fort Knox gave me a new appreciation for what Soldiers have to train and move around in. It was cold, it was very loud, and it was bumpy.  Now to see the HIMARS, the mobility that it brings to our fighting force, is certainly something that is timely the way operations are conducted today and I’m very impressed that our local Guard men and women are those skilled and using that weapon system. I have full confidence in their abilities to deliver successful missions.”

At the end of the day, Lt. Col. L. Allen Joiner, commander of the 623rd had this to say. “I think the training and the HIMARS live-fire certification that the unit completed this weekend was a great representation of the Citizen- Soldier.  Our job is more than pay and benefits; it is about a group of individuals coming together displaying effective teamwork and dedication focused on a common goal.  Seeing the American flag waving in the wind with a HIMARS firing in the background during our family and employer demonstration reminded me of what it means to be Field Artillery and an American Soldier who lives in the greatest nation in the World.”

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