View Full Version : “Beastmasters” provide Camp Fallujah with counter battery fire

10-04-05, 08:51 AM
“Beastmasters” provide Camp Fallujah with counter battery fire
II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
Story by Cpl. Evan M. Eagan

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Oct. 3, 2005) -- Amidst the noises created by the operating forces here daily, nothing penetrates the ear drum more precisely than the cannon blasts emanating from the outer perimeter of the base.

At all hours of the day and night the Marines of Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, unleash ground shaking blasts from their arsenal of M198 medium towed howitzers on insurgents within an 18-mile radius.

The Marines, nicknamed the “Beastmasters,” arrived here in late August and replaced Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, for a seven month deployment.

The Camp Pendelton, Calif., based unit is tasked with providing counter battery fire missions as well as support for any requesting unit operating in the area.

“Our primary missions are counter fire,” said 1st Lt. David Kissner, 25, executive officer, Alpha Battery, 1/11. “Ninety percent of what we shoot is based off radar acquisitions. If we receive incoming rounds on the base we can tell where the shot came from and where the impact was. If we get cleared and confirmed our response time can be as fast as two minutes.”

Although the battery may get anywhere from 15-30 missions a day, very few will be realized due to the possibility of collateral damage in highly populated areas.

“Sometimes we will get 10 missions in a row and not shoot a single one,” said Cpl. Andrew Morgan, 21, section leader, Gun 2. “Other times we might get three missions and get to shoot on the third. A lot of times the missions get called back because we try to keep the collateral damage to a minimum.”

For many of the Marines in the battery, this is their first deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, however, this marks the unit’s second time in country.

“This [deployment] is completely different than the first,” said Cpl. Chris Siegfried, the assistant section leader for Gun 2, and one of the few Marines still with the battery from the initial invasion. “During OIF I we were constantly on the move. There were no camps and no PX’s (post exchanges). We were living out of seven tons.”

Providing counter fire is a race against the clock for these Marines, who must send rounds down range in a timely manner in order to take out insurgents who fire rockets or mortars on to the base.

“We’ve been working together for a year-and-a-half so our job is second nature to us,” said Lance Cpl. Jon Bonnell, field artillery canoneer, Gun 3. “Because missions can come down day and night, everyone knows each others job to make sure the gun section works as fast as possible to get the rounds down range.”

In addition to their duties as artillery Marines, they also provide convoy security as well as security at sites in Fallujah.

“We do everything from [military operations in urban terrain] to [artillery],” said Morgan, a Lincoln, R.I., native. We can do convoy security, be a rifle company or a truck company. We’ve even done some [explosive ordnance disposal]. We do it all.”