Bushmasters fire rockets amid fanfare
Stars and Stripes March 22, 2008
BOAR 1 TRAINING AREA, South Korea — Pfc. Michael Rivera didn’t have much of a view from the driver’s seat of the Multiple Launch Rocket System vehicle Thursday, but the show couldn’t start without him.
Rivera and his crewmates from the Battery B “Bushmasters” of 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery, 2nd Infantry Division drove out into the hills of Rocket Valley on Gyeonggi Province’s northeastern border Wednesday, while a throng of spectators watched from a bridge about a mile from the firing point.
A general watched for the first “ripper” training rocket to fly; nearby one of the many invited soldiers’ wives covered her child’s stroller to keep out the dust.
Meanwhile, men who appeared to be wearing the same dark, Secret Service-looking suits circled the mayor of Dongducheon.
None of that was visible from inside the vehicle, where Rivera checked the air vents, cabin pressure and gauges.
It’s a fairly new line of work for Rivera, who reclassified his specialty after working with communications in a signal company.
“I thought this sounded pretty cool, so I took it. It’s fun,” said Rivera, of Fayetteville, N.C.
As Rivera made his checks, fire direction center personnel in a tent on the range relayed firing coordinates from its higher headquarters to the three-man vehicle crew.
The launcher module let out a hydraulic whine as it rose from the back of the massive, tracked vehicle.
Cpl. Paul Thompson, the crew chief, checked to make sure the module was oriented correctly.
What happened next is a matter of perspective.
Anyone standing next to the launcher would say it felt like the earth just tried to swallow them.
But from a distance, there wasn’t much sound — only a flare of light and a smoke trail streaming through the mountains.
Seconds later, however, the crack and percussion of the speeding rocket filled the valley.
Six crews were tapped to fire Thursday. When each crew fired three rockets successfully, it qualified them and the fire direction center for 180 days.
The battalion will continue qualifying its crews and conducting other field training for about another week. They just won’t have any more tour buses to greet them.
“I know that they know their jobs,” said the Bushmasters’ 1st Sgt. Kirk Hamlin of Hampton, Va. “What I want to see is them focus on doing their job as if no one came out to see them.”