WESTMINSTER — Members of the Maryland Army National Guard's 2-110th Field Artillery battalion, Battery A of Westminster, are experts in "hasty displacement."
Working as a synchronized team, Battery A can pack up a 105mm howitzer cannon and be ready to move to a new location within minutes.
The Westminster battery is one of three in the 2-110th, headquartered in Pikesville, Baltimore County. Two batteries are on base.
Speed, precision, teamwork and attention to detail mark every member'straining, whether under heavy attack or just needed elsewhere, usinglive ammunition or blanks, working day or night.
The Guard's onlyartillery unit recently went to Fort A. P. Hill, Va., to shoot live rounds from the howitzers. They fired heavy explosive and smoke ammunition during the day and added special rounds that lighted up the night sky.
It takes a team of five to seven artillerymen to fire eachhowitzer. Every team member is critical to completing the battalion's mission: providing heavy-hitting fire support for the 3rd Brigade of the 29th Infantry Division (Light), the National Guard's only light-infantry division.
When the infantry calls for fire support, the field artillery's response must be quick and deadly to enemy troops and equipment. A typical howitzer can shoot up to 10 rounds a minute and up to 30 rounds in succession. Instructions to shoot come from the2-110th's Fire Direction Center, a small-wheeled vehicle called a HUMVEE equipped with computers in direct communication with the infantry's forward observer.
Eight specific sequenced commands are necessary for a call to fire. A section chief in charge of each group completes the mission.
"My main concern as section chief is to make sure each round goes off safely," said Staff Sgt. William Gilbert of Battery A. "For each firing session, I've got to insure each soldier's tasks are performed quickly and in sequence.
"Not only is hitting the target area important, each man's safety is crucial," said Gilbert, a Brunswick, Frederick County, resident.
Spc. Clark Duff of Westminster, assigned to Battery A, stressed the importance of unity.
"I love being an assistant gunner, but we all have to work together,"he said. "Whether we're doing a dry run or live fire either day or night, each man must know his duties inside and out."
While BatteryA regularly trains at military posts in Maryland and Virginia, the unit recently traveled to Fort Chaffee, Ark., and to Honduras to trainwith soldiers at the Honduran Artillery School.
"I'd never been out of the country before, so I jumped at the chance to go," said Duff. "It was quite an experience, and while we taught the Hondurans a lot, they showed us a few tricks of their own."
Because the weapons systems are a complex combination of yesterday's basic equipment and today's technological advances, soldiers get the chance to challenge their minds as well as their bodies in the field.
"When firing missions come in, plotting coordinates on big graph paper is fun and easy for me," said Pfc. Andrew Snyder, a chart operator with Battery A'sFire Direction Center.
"I get to act as a backup for the computersystem and also function as the radio operator during night firing,"the Sykesville resident added.
Since the 2-110th is the only field artillery unit in the Maryland Guard and supports an entire brigade, up-to-date training and complete backup systems are critical.
But Battery A enjoys the individual challenges as well as unit camaraderie.
"Because we're separated from batteries B and C in Pikesville, Battery A is more of a family here in Westminster," Gilbert said. "We know and trust each other. Not only is training challenging, but getting together with this special group helps break up the routine ofour daily lives."