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Artillery Relocation Training Program 13-4 begins with bang

9 Feb 2014 | Sgt. Brian Marion

AICHI, Japan - They traveled the frozen land, looking for suitable places to set their howitzers. Each time, a group of them went ahead and scouted the areas.

Once the rest of the unit arrived, the Marines with 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, performed reconnaissance, security, occupy, position procedures before firing their M777A2 150 mm lightweight howitzers Jan. 20–22 to officially start Artillery Relocation Training Program 13-4 in the North Fuji Maneuver Area.

ARTP is a training exercise designed to enhance the readiness and proficiency of the regiment through live-fire training on various ranges.

The regiment is with 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

“On a difficulty scale of 1 to 10, this was by far a 10,” said Lance Cpl. Derrick T. Pfaff, an artilleryman with the unit. “It took us about 20 minutes to dig a hole less than a foot deep because of the frozen ground.”

Each time the regiment’s batteries travel to a new area, they send out an advanced party to conduct RSOP. This advanced party consists of a survey team, a security team and two-man teams from each howitzer within the battery.

The RSOP process begins when the advanced party reaches its destination. Once there, the Marines secure the area.

“As soon as we get there, we have already (completed) the reconnaissance part, and have (begun) the security part,” said Staff Sgt. Craig F. Provins, a platoon sergeant with Battery A, 1st Bn., 12th Marine Regiment, currently assigned to 3rd Bn., 12th Marine Regiment, under the unit deployment program.

Once the Marines secure the area, the two-man teams occupy the areas where the guns will be and place markers indicating the general direction the howitzers should be facing. Then, as the rest of the battery arrives, the teams position the howitzers, so that they can be emplaced.

“It’s all part of the job,” said Provins. “Without the Marines doing their job in the advanced party, we wouldn’t be able to fire the guns.”

Once the Marines emplaced the howitzers, they prepared them for firing and waited for fire missions from the fire direction center.

Waiting for missions so the Marines can fire is one the most time consuming parts of this training, according to Sgt. Shamar M. Jackson, an artilleryman with the unit. Some days several hours can pass before a single fire mission and other days it seems like the fire missions come nonstop.

On the final day, the Marines received a fire mission to expend all remaining ammunition, allowing the Marines on the gun line one last volley to the target area before heading home.

“It’s what we do,” said Cpl. Kenneth M. Whittkop, an artilleryman with 1st Bn., 12th Marine Regiment. “If we could just shoot the howitzers every day, I would be extremely happy.”

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