Lessons from the front: artillery crews changing for unconventional missions.

Author:Pappalardo, Joe

As Army Col. Carlton Reid prepared the 17th Field Artillery Brigade for a July deployment to Iraq, none of his time was spent on rockets and cannon rounds.

Instead, as brigade commander, Reid had to contend with missions that seem very far from the meat and potatoes of an artillery brigade--blowing up targets and counting the enemy bodies during battle damage assessments.

In Iraq, Reid will be responsible for running a base--Camp Victory, located near Baghdad's airport--and coordinating convoy escorts, as well as winning hearts and minds through information operations and handling civil-military affairs in his sector.

These jobs require staffs that he does not have. "Part of the job is finding people," he said. "I need some really good civil engineers." Reid, who taught at West Point, said his plan was to recruit staff from that military academy, and added that most active units already were taken and the bulk of reserves were constrained by deployment limits.

The new mission sets require more than staff; they require fresh training and guidance.

At Fort Sill, Okla., Army Col. Anthony Puckett is busy adapting lessons to prepare Iraq-bound troops. Puckett is commander of the 30th field artillery regiment, part of the Army's Field Artillery School.

Artillery brigades now are assigned their own sectors, meaning they have responsibility for a range of untraditional missions. "This alone is a pretty monumental aspect of training," Puckett said.

The artillerymen must handle convoy security, find and dispose of captured enemy ordinance, deal with local Iraqi officials and engage in information operations. "Artillerymen are well suited for that," Puckett said, referring to their advanced radio and communications gear.

The training must go from finite attack and maneuver lessons to complex peacekeeping operations. Those going to Iraq are taught to plan for "hearts and minds" goals. Part of the training including charting proof of progress, such as the willingness of officials in their sector to identify insurgents, the level of participation in local governance or the amount of anti-American graffiti on walls.


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