Rockets soar at Fort Sill

Fort Sill_Fort Sill is a field artillery post known for rocking the Lawton area with explosions at any hour of the day or night.  However, booms heard on Wednesday morning were a first for the town.  The First Battalion, 14th Field Artillery, is the first unit at Fort Sill to train on the new "High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HI-MARS)."

The Army is retiring its old M2-70 launchers in favor of a new rocket system.  When it's launched, the system fires a split second before it is heard, rattling the ribs as it flies and hits its target straight on.  The system is faster, lighter, and smaller than before, and it's no wonder the Army is commissioning more and more of the launchers.  "These are C-130 transportable," says Lieutenant Colonel Geoff Buhlig.  "We can transport these launchers, through them in the back of an aircraft, travel somewhere, and roll off and shoot."

Agility is important during wartime, because once a launcher fires, the launcher itself becomes a target to the enemy.  "We can move faster than the tracked vehicles," says Buhlig.  "We can move by plane, so that means we can go by more terrain and stuff like that, and faster.  It is less fire power, but you're accounting for it with speed."

HI-MARS is the newest addition to the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), and has been used by the Marines in Iraq.  Now, the 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery has spent the last six weeks getting their turn with it.  "You're always training, training, training," says First Lieutenant and Platoon Leader David Nguyen.  "Once you get over to the theater, you finally fire, probably one of the best things in the do your job for real."

The exercise isn't just about actually putting their finger on the trigger, soldiers are calculating coordinates, practicing maneuvers, and learning to literally put out fires.  While it's exhilarating to witness, it's even more awesome inside the launcher.  "I have been told you rock pretty good," says Nguyen.  "You can see from the way it's positioned, the launcher itself will tilt one side to the other, and I've heard that's pretty exciting."

During the last six weeks of their training, the battalion commander says the unit faced temperatures so cold they could see their breath in the air, compared to recent warmer days where it has been so hot it's been difficult to breathe.  However, they say they're loving every second of it.