Tenn. Army and Air National Guard Perform Joint Mission
By Tech. Sgt. Robin Olsen, JFHQ
/ Published June 06, 2011
Smyrna -- The Tennessee Army and Air National Guards conducted a joint mission June 3 and 4 that was a first of its kind for Tennessee.
Nashville's 118th Airlift Wing provided four C-130 aircraft to move approximately 16 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) for the Chattanooga based 1/181st Field Artillery Battalion to Fort Chaffee, Ark., for the Army unit's annual training being conducted there.
"Some of our individuals have done this type of operation before in the desert, but this is the first time for our unit and in such a massive way," said Lt. Col. Jay Jackson, 118th AW, Operational Support Flight Chief.
The HIMARS departed from the National Guard Volunteer Training Site in Smyrna as well as another location in Chattanooga. Only one system will fit into each C-130, so multiple trips over two-days were made to deliver all 16 safely to Fort Chaffee.
"Once at Fort Chaffee, the 181st will complete a number of certification tasks with the systems, including live firing of the HIMARS," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Gunter with the 181st FA Battalion.
"Overall, this was a phenomenal effort by the Tennessee Air and Army Guard," said Jackson. "The Army was very pleased with the efficiency and the training they received by airlifting these systems, and our Air folks received very valuable training as well.
The 181st first received the HIMARS in 2006 with the first firing taking place at Fort Campbell, Ky., that May. They were the first National Guard unit to field the state-of-the-art systems, and only the second unit in the U.S. Army to do so.
"The HIMARS are capable of coming off the plane when it lands and being mission ready and firing in about 15 minutes," said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Coleman, Training NCO, A Battery, 181st FA Battalion. "Other benefits of the system are that it is more easily air transportable, the launchers are GPS aided, and the long range of the rockets."
Each HIMARS requires at least two operators, but usually consist of a three-man team to run the system. This team is made up of a driver, a gunner, and a chief.
"The gunner helps navigate the vehicles and the rockets from inside the HIMARS," Coleman said. Adding, "The Chief verifies the data is safe and that the team had a good fire mission."
The systems are much smaller than the unit's previous system, the M-270 multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) launcher, which required a C-5 or C-17 for transport due to its size.
The 181st FA Battalion has units in Lawrenceburg, Fayetteville, Pulaski, Athens, and Dayton. The unit has not yet used the systems in combat, however they are scheduled to deploy sometime next year.