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Fairchild supports Marine Battery P to ‘Fire Mission!’

Marines of P Battery 5/14 fire a high explosive projectile downrange from a M777A2 howitzer weapon system during a live-fire training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. USMC artillery units mission is to provide long range fire support to infantry ground forces down-range in a deployed environment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Marines of P Battery 5/14 fire a high explosive projectile downrange from a M777A2 howitzer weapon system during a live-fire training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. USMC artillery units mission is to provide long range fire support to infantry ground forces down-range in a deployed environment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

155 mm projectiles for a M777A2 howitzer sit beside their ammo truck during a live-fire U.S. Marine Corps training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. The M777 howitzer is a towed, lightweight artillery piece that succeeded the M198 howitzer in the USMC and U.S. Army in 2005. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

155 mm projectiles for a M777A2 howitzer sit beside their ammo truck during a live-fire U.S. Marine Corps training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. The M777 howitzer is a towed, lightweight artillery piece that succeeded the M198 howitzer in the USMC and U.S. Army in 2005. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Marines of P Battery 5/14 break down a M777A2 howitzer weapon system and prepare it for towing during a live-fire training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. The M777A2 howitzer weighs less than 10,000 pounds and can be easily towed by support trucks. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Marines of P Battery 5/14 break down a M777A2 howitzer weapon system and prepare it for towing during a live-fire training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. The M777A2 howitzer weighs less than 10,000 pounds and can be easily towed by support trucks. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Staff Sgt. Alexx Bullion, Reserve Marine P Battery 5/14 artillery section chief, pauses between fire missions during a live-fire, artillery training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. USMC firing positions are centered around a fire direction center and deploy several gun sections, each with it’s own M777A2 howitzer weapon system, support trucks and crew. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Staff Sgt. Alexx Bullion, Reserve Marine P Battery 5/14 artillery section chief, pauses between fire missions during a live-fire, artillery training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. USMC firing positions are centered around a fire direction center and deploy several gun sections, each with it’s own M777A2 howitzer weapon system, support trucks and crew. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Marines of P Battery 5/14 fire a high explosive projectile downrange from a M777A2 howitzer weapon system during a live-fire training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. USMC crews can fire an M777A2 howitzer up to five rounds a minute under intense firing conditions and can provide a sustained rate of fire of two rounds a minute. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Marines of P Battery 5/14 fire a high explosive projectile downrange from a M777A2 howitzer weapon system during a live-fire training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. USMC crews can fire an M777A2 howitzer up to five rounds a minute under intense firing conditions and can provide a sustained rate of fire of two rounds a minute. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Marines of P Battery 5/14 fire a high explosive projectile downrange from a M777A2 howitzer weapon system during a live-fire training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. The muzzle brake located at the end of a M777A2 howitzer barrel, takes the energy of the extra propellant gases when fired and redirects it backwards into the ground, slowing the recoil and preventing the weapon from bouncing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Marines of P Battery 5/14 fire a high explosive projectile downrange from a M777A2 howitzer weapon system during a live-fire training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. The muzzle brake located at the end of a M777A2 howitzer barrel, takes the energy of the extra propellant gases when fired and redirects it backwards into the ground, slowing the recoil and preventing the weapon from bouncing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Marines of P Battery 5/14 use a ramming rod to push a 100-pound, high explosive projectile into the barrel of a M777A2 howitzer weapon system during a live-fire training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. In use by several armies by the mid-seventeenth century, the howitzer continues to be a staple of siege warfare to this day, allowing long-range, indirect fire on targets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Marines of P Battery 5/14 use a ramming rod to push a 100-pound, high explosive projectile into the barrel of a M777A2 howitzer weapon system during a live-fire training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. In use by several armies by the mid-seventeenth century, the howitzer continues to be a staple of siege warfare to this day, allowing long-range, indirect fire on targets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Marines from Battery P, 5th Battalion, 14th Marines, 4th Marine Division, U.S. Marine Forces Reserve, haul 155 mm projectiles for a M777A2 howitzer weapon system to separate gun emplacements during a live-fire training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. Using guided munitions, The M777 can fire accurately at a range of up to 25 miles away and may be accurate to within 11 yards of a target. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Marines from Battery P, 5th Battalion, 14th Marines, 4th Marine Division, U.S. Marine Forces Reserve, haul 155 mm projectiles for a M777A2 howitzer weapon system to separate gun emplacements during a live-fire training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. Using guided munitions, The M777 can fire accurately at a range of up to 25 miles away and may be accurate to within 11 yards of a target. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Staff Sgt. Alexx Bullion, Reserve Marine P Battery 5/14 artillery section chief, calls out orders to Marines manning a M777A2 howitzer weapon system during a live-fire training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. USMC Battery P conducts four live-fire artillery exercises performed each year, in addition to small-arms marksmanship and machine gun training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Staff Sgt. Alexx Bullion, Reserve Marine P Battery 5/14 artillery section chief, calls out orders to Marines manning a M777A2 howitzer weapon system during a live-fire training exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Oct 14, 2017. USMC Battery P conducts four live-fire artillery exercises performed each year, in addition to small-arms marksmanship and machine gun training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- At the ready
On a brisk October morning, The Marines of Battery P, 5th Battalion, 14th Marines, 4th Marine Division, U.S. Marine Forces Reserve, stood ready at their firing positions in the hills of the Yakima Training Center, WA.

Four artillery gun sections stood camouflaged against the surrounding scrubland, unimposing at a distance; a battery of Marines milled about handling minor tasks and talked amongst themselves as they waited.

“Fire mission! Fire mission!” squawked the radio at artillery gun emplacement two.

“Fire mission! Fire mission!” the team of Marines cried out in unison as they leaped to task, dropping everything else.

The gun section leader, Staff Sgt. Alexx Bullion, Reserve Marine Battery P 5/14 artillery section chief, huddles with the radio operator to receive specifics from the battery’s fire direction center on the number of shots, ammunition type, fuse setting, charge strength, bearing and elevation. The chief relays the directions to the hustling crew and in one swift motion, the Marines of gun emplacement two readied their Howitzer with well-oiled precision.

Fairchild reinforces USMC Battery P
Marine Battery P commenced their latest exercise October 11-14, 2017, one of four live-fire artillery exercises performed each year, in addition to small-arms marksmanship and machine gun training. This most recent display of skill was a direct result of their dedicated training efforts, aided by the support of Fairchild Air Force Base.

“We've been working with Fairchild for the past five years to service the guns, not long after the M777 Howitzer was adopted for use with this unit,” said Capt. Andrew J. Miller, Spokane U.S. Marine Corps support inspector instructor. “We service the guns at the base when possible, because they have the maintenance spaces with the overhead cranes needed to lift the barrels from the howitzers for high-level servicing. It saves us a lot of time and headache it would take to maintain the guns otherwise.”

This support is possible due to service agreements the Department of Defense provides, allowing different service branches and allied partners to assist one another, saving resources, time and money.

“We all fall under the DoD as one military, so the funding also comes from one place and is dispersed according to needs,” said Tech. Sgt. James Williams, 92nd Logistics Readiness Squadron plans and programs NCO in charge. “If Fairchild can support any of our sister service team members, we will do so.”

Battery P lives a significant distance away from a Marine base, so Fairchild fills the gap; supporting them with medical care, continuing education, legal assistance, chapel services and even housing.

"We have a healthy relationship with Fairchild,” Miller said. “We don't have allocation or space for everything here as we are stationed far from the rest of our cloth, so it’s great to have support for our troops and our mission.”

Battery P means business
"Papa Battery is a Marine Core artillery unit that utilizes six M777A2 155 mm lightweight, medium-towed Howitzers,” said Miller. “They have the mission of providing fire support to infantry ground forces down-range, typically the reserve component, but may serve the active component if the need arises.”

An artillery Battery is expected to be self-sufficient when deployed, where each Marine is charged with providing multiple roles as weapon systems crew and fighters to handle missions, security and transport, Miller said.

“These Reserve Marines are highly skilled to operate these weapon systems," Miller said. “Their performance speaks to their level of dedication to the mission, to their personal sacrifice and accomplishments. Their proficiency is amazing if you consider that they only shoot four times a year vs. an active unit that receives significantly more time training.”

Battery P has safely and accurately fired over 2,000, 155mm projectiles during training exercises over the past year, said Gunnery Sgt. Alton Currie, Battery P 5-14 operations chief.

“It was a good exercise. Training readiness standards is our top priority,” Currie said. “Some Marines have stepped up to greater responsibilities as new emplacement chiefs and this was essential training for them, breaking out all our gear and working with it to get ready for the year ahead.”

Semper Fidelis
The breech is opened; the barrel cleared, oiled and made ready for action. The loader lugs a 100-pound, 155 mm projectile to the gun, and has Bullion check the fuze prior to placing it onto the loading slide. A long metal rod wielded by two Marines ram the ordnance into the barrel, propellant charges are added; the breach closed and locked.

A Marine announces the gun is ready to fire. Bullion raises his hand: “Prepare to fire!” he warns, less than a minute after the crew was given the fire mission order.

“Fire!” Bullion ordered with a chopping motion.

The howitzer thundered: firing with a power that quaked the ground, causing the surrounding dirt and dust to fly into the air; the shockwave crashing against the crew and reverberating throughout the firing position.

“Reload!” Bullion ordered -- the firing process began anew.