JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —
By 6:30 a.m., the first truck rolled onto the flight line at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Tactically, Airmen and Soldiers guided two five-ton vehicles onto two C-130J Super Hercules – a testament to the aircrafts’ herculean strength. In four hours the vehicles were secured, shipped and transplanted 300 miles up to Fort Greely, Alaska.
Because it was the final day of Red Flag-Alaska 19-1, Fort Bragg Soldiers were prepared to give it all they had and finish the exercise more than strong.
To the layman, the big box trucks are like any other military vehicles; a matte beige tractor-trailer style with what looks like a rear cargo bay. People familiar with the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System know the awesome firepower of the weapons system.
“You see two groups of professional military members, each with their specialty and each working together,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jeremy Linney, 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment (HIMARS), 18th Field Artillery Brigade battalion commander. “When loading and unloading the aircraft, it didn’t matter which uniform you were wearing, everybody was working together. There was good communication between both groups of people.”
The battalion from Fort Bragg partnered with Airmen from 327th Airlift Squadron and 61st Airlift Squadron from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, for the day’s mission.
The HIMARS is a key component of military firepower, adding extraordinary competency to the joint mission and a serious threat to those at the other end of it.
“You have a precision-guided munition with high net weight of explosives that is all-weather system,” said U.S. Army Capt. John Heath, Alpha Battery 3-27th FAR commander. “It can shoot in adverse conditions such as snow and rain. Being on a five-ton-chassis, it’s highly mobile and deployable.”
Although many other assets can be loaded inside an aircraft and travel anywhere around the world, the M142 HIMARS delivers an exclusive capability with its rocket-launching accuracy, Heath said.
The HIMARS’ long-range capabilities allow it to reach targets 300 kilometers away with pinpoint accuracy - beyond the reach of conventional artillery, Heath said.
The incredible execution of the HIMARS during RF-A 19-1 would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the Alpha Battery 3-27th FAR Soldiers, who dedicated all their efforts and strove for nothing short of perfection.
“What we do is difficult to master,” Linney said. “Our training is time consuming and demanding so that we can do our job right and do it fast. A lot goes into operating the HIMARS but only three people operate it. Every operator carries an incredible wealth of knowledge.”
Maintaining readiness requires a lot of practice and dedication; however, exercises like RF-A allows them to train with other services and get better each day.