FORT PICKETT, Va. –
The Virginia National Guard’s Norfolk-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conducted one final live-fire exercise with their M119A2 howitzers Nov. 5, 2016, at Fort Pickett, Virginia, beginning the transformation of the field artillery battalion. Over the next 12 months, the battalion will transform into a larger, more robust composite field artillery battalion.
“We have been working diligently over the past two years to ensure this transformation is successful, capitalizing on existing relationships within the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 329th Regional Support Group and state, and forging new relationships with the 82d Division Artillery to maximize our success,” said said Lt. Col. Jared Lake, commander of the battalion. “All of the battalion’s hard work will culminate in 2017 to deliver a more lethal and agile force to support the Stonewall Brigade.”
The transformation will occur across five lines of effort: manning, equipping, training, facilities and federal recognition. The battalion will manage a significant increase in personnel authorizations, assignment of additional equipment and rolling stock from across the brigade combat team, new equipment fielding and training to include the establishment of a Joint Fires Observer program, re-stationing and federal recognition of the new force structure explained Maj. Donald Bailey, battalion training and operations officer.
The restructuring of the battalion will include the activation of an additional firing battery. After turning in their current sixteen M119A2 105mm towed howitzers to Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, the battalion’s existing firing batteries will be fielded a total of twelve digitized M119A3 105mm towed howitzers. The activated firing battery will be fielded six M777A2 155mm towed howitzers.
“The new howitzers, lightweight counter mortar radars and additional force structure provide several advantages over our current capabilities,” said Bailey. The systems will enable our formations to more rapidly respond to enemy threats and provide close, continuous, flexible, and scalable indirect fire support to the 116th IBCT. The digitized howitzers will deliver increased accuracy and lethality, greater dispersion and survivability, and the capacity to fire precision munitions. These attributes will enhance the command and control of the battalion, he said.
Through the Army Total Force Partnership program with 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division and the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery, the active duty component will assist in orientation with the new systems and training readiness oversight. The battalion has training scheduled with the 82nd units in spring 2017 and during Annual Training 2018.
Soldiers assigned to the battalion will participate in numerous new equipment training and fielding events during 2017.
“The goal is to ensure our Soldiers become subject matter experts on all the new equipment capabilities and corresponding tactics associated with the composite field artillery battalion,” said Bailey.
The conversion allocates a larger number of cannon crew member and fire support military occupational specialty opportunities for many Soldiers, Bailey explained. Aside from new Soldiers joining the Virginia Army National Guard, current Soldiers have the prospect to reclassify from their current military occupation to fill the positions that are now available due to the growth from the transformation.