The sound of gunfire from a dismounted enemy platoon rings out as shouts of “contact” echo from soldiers under fire.
CAPTION: Australian Army gunners from 4 Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, fire the M777A2 155mm howitzer during Exercise Nadzab at Townsville Field Training Area. Story by Private Nicholas Marquis. Photos by Captain Lyndon Harvey.
The friendly callsign breaks contact, moving back to a pit before calling in a danger-close mission.
Within minutes, 155mm high-explosive rounds fired from several kilometres away hit the splash zone, 175m from the engaged callsign.
Firing with modified safety procedures, it was one of several live-fire, danger-close missions 4 Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (4 Regt, RAA), completed recently during Exercise Nadzab.
Detachment commander Bombardier Alex Conduit said there was excellent training value in feeling rounds dropping nearby.
Gunners took turns away from their positions on the gun line to be in the pits calling in rounds.
“It’s pretty full-on. You hear them go off a couple kilometres away before they impact you,” Bombardier Conduit said.
“It’s a good experience to feel the effects of 155 shells on the other end of the spectrum rather than hearing it from the end that I’m normally on.”
Drills on the gun line don’t change much when danger-close is called in, but Bombardier Conduit said a more “serious face” was put on.
“All the things we do are the same as any mission, it’s just mostly making sure those one percenters are 100 per cent ticked off,” he said.
Along with a high-tempo element, the exercise featured modified safety procedures.
Safety checks were conducted as usual, however, once a fall of shot was confirmed and deemed successful, safety staff were withdrawn.
Bombardier Conduit said it was an incredible experience to be told you’re trusted enough to be doubled-checked and then left to continue alone.
Battery Sergeant Major 109 Battery Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) Nathan Corradetti agreed with his detachment commander, saying adoption of modified safety procedures highlighted operational strengths and weaknesses.
“It places significant responsibility on the detachment commander and detachment to maintain their drills,” WO2 Corradetti said.
“Once the call is prefixed with ‘danger close’, the understanding, urgency and importance of the mission is significantly higher.
“It’s one of our more technical mission profiles, which challenged the ability of the gun detachments, CPs [command posts] and the gun line as a whole.”
With changing threat environments, 4 Regt, RAA, identified their traditional method of deployment might not be sufficient. They’ve adopted a dispersed technique, allowing detachment commanders to choose placement of their guns within an assigned ‘keypad’ area.
“Conducting dispersed operations enables the junior commanders to build confidence and trust in the process and procedure,” WO2 Corradetti said.
The Battery Sergeant Major 109 Battery said the techniques highlighted different gunnery aspects and broke up the routine of more conventional style of gun deployments.
The exercise culminated with the regiment conducting modified safety-dispersed practices and danger-close live-fires in direct support of friendly troops.
CAPTION: Gunners fire the M777A2 155mm howitzer during Exercise Nadzab.