GI families get front-row seat for artillery exercise
RODRIGUEZ RANGE, South Korea — The artillery round whistled far over the women and children’s heads, then exploded, raising a cloud of fire and smoke and sending a shock wave through the valley.
The women and children were relatives of 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment soldiers who displayed their fighting skills for their families at Rodriguez Range on Thursday. The artillery fire, part of the training, impressed Connor Timmerman, 10, whose father, Maj. Eric Timmerman, serves with the regiment.
“It was really cool when it hit the mountain and I could see the missiles when they were shot,” he said.
The Seoul American Elementary School pupil said he also enjoyed seeing Bradley fighting vehicles fire their guns.
Connor’s brothers, Charlie, 5, and Jackson, 8, also appeared to enjoy the experience, running around a Bradley and a Paladin self-propelled artillery piece and watching soldiers engage targets with live rounds on the range.
The boys saw their father, who had been in the field for three weeks, wearing full battle dress, complete with green camouflage face paint.
“It is good they got the opportunity to see what I do in action,” Timmerman said. “We have been around the Bradley when it is parked, but to see it firing and maneuvering. … I am glad they finally got the chance. Whenever you see Bradleys being fired and things blowing up, it’s exciting.”
The action at Rodriguez Range gave the boys, who play action games such as Halo and Full Spectrum Warrior on their Xbox video game system, a taste of real-life action, he said.
“It is quite different when you feel the reverberation of the rounds hitting the earth and sense the power,” Timmerman said.
Pfc. Andrew Gemmell, 20, of Oskaloosa, Iowa, showed his wife, Rachel, what he does on the job as a forward artillery observer.
Rachel Gemmell said she had lived in South Korea as a noncommand-sponsored spouse for almost a year but Thursday was the first time she had been to Rodriguez Range.
“I’ve been out here for three weeks and it’s good to see my wife,” Andrew Gemmell said.
“It’s hard to explain what I do,” he said. “It’s good that she can watch and get a better understanding of it. A lot of people don’t know what we do. A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to come to a live-fire range and watch us shoot artillery.”
The soldiers’ families were treated to artillery and mortar fire, cannon fire from the Bradleys and machine-gun fire from M-16s.
“We usually only get out and shoot about twice a year. We look to use the time to get to fire as much as we can and get some good training in,” Gemmell said.
Pfc. Brian Dubois, 20 of Amarillo, Texas, a mechanic for the regiment, explained the training to his wife, Lacey, who arrived in South Korea six weeks ago.
Lacey Dubois said she remembers watching her father train on Army ranges in Italy when she was a child but had not seen live-fire training in a long time.
Pfc. Dubois, who practiced defending convoys with a .50-caliber machine gun during the training, showed his wife some of the vehicles he helps maintain.
Battalion commander Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn said the families observed a scheduled training event designed to train soldiers for combat.
“It’s about training our battalion for war. We are no different than any other mechanized unit it the U.S. Army. [Rodriguez Range] allows us to do live-fire for our soldiers, which is critical for combat,” he said.
The event observed by the families was a live-fire, platoon-level exercise that involved maneuvering to seize an objective, he said. Engineers and chemical units helped the Bradley platoons breach obstacles and field artillery and mortars helped suppress the enemy.
Families observing the training were part of 2-9’s family readiness group, Kuhn said.
“This is the first time we have brought them out to the field. It is a great opportunity to build the team. We consider the wives are part of the Manchus team,” he said, referring to the unit’s nickname.