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Crew fires one for the history books
by Edgar Morrison, PAO Staff

  NOTE on April 27, 2010: A correction to this article was submitted by Bill Morris, 1988-91 veteran of 'A' Battery, 40th Field Artillery, MLRS, and webmaster of as follows:
I was reading the SPEARHEAD Magazine (Spring 1991) on, when I came across an article that I really feel should be clarified. Normally, such a detail wouldn't make much of a difference: Except that this ambiguity is of historical importance to the 3rd Armored Division. The article, "BIG SHOT - Crew fires one for the history books" written by Edgar Morrison, of the 3AD, PAO Staff, credits a gun crew from 'C' Battery, 4/82 Field Artillery (an M-109 Howitzer Battalion from Hutier Kaserne in Hanau, Germany) with firing the first offensive round(s) of the war/ground war from the 3rd Armored Division. This particular account notes that the event occurred on February 26, 1991, between the hours of 1715-1830.

Actually, the first offensive round(s) from the 3rd Armored Division and by default, the first fired by 3AD since the end of WWII, were fired by the soldiers from 'A' Battery 40th Field Artillery, MLRS. A/40th FA was a 3AD - DIVARTY 'Spearhead Steel' subordinate unit, from Francois Kaserne (across the street from DIVARTY HQ and the 4/82 FA) in Hanau, Germany. The round(s) were fired in the form of 108 MLRS Rockets (each containing 677 DPICM sub-munitions totaling more than 73,000 grenade sized 'bomblets,' each with a kill radius of 5 meters) at 1300 on February 22, 1991.

This action is recorded in a historical narrative by the Commander of A/40th FA, MLRS - CPT Leonard G. Tokar. His account included the following (abridged): "On 22 February we moved up to the end of the friendly lines and lined up the launchers on the (Iraqi) trench line. Several Iraqi artillery rounds landed a few kilometers from where we were preparing to fire. At 1300 hours the first of 108 rockets were fired and was followed up with supporting fires from four cannon Battalions of the 1st Infantry DIVARTY. No more rounds came over from Iraq. The sight of nine MLRS launchers firing at maximum elevation looked like the old TV movie 'The Day After.' It looked like a massive nuclear strike."

Crew fires one for the history books


Once the call for fire came back from the scouts, one crew from Charlie Btry., 4th Bn., 82nd Field Arty took history into their own hands and fired Third Armored Division's first artillery round of the ground offensive.

"When we first made contact, the scouts from 4/8 Cav. had previously called back for support; but the first team called wasn't ready," said Staff Sgt. Ronnie Heare, a 29-year-old section chief on an M-109 Howitzer.

So that opened the door for the crew aboard "Conan the Destroyer" to plant 2nd Section of4/82's 1st Platoon in the history books by firing three illumination rounds, followed by three dual purpose improved conventional munition warheads.

Heare, a native of San Antonio, Texas, saw shades of Germany as his crew carried out the mission. "They weren't nervous at all. It was just like we were in the field. After we got the first round off it was OK."

But the reality of war was evident once this Howitzer crew got started as they took out an artillery unit and a mortar unit in addition to suppressing enemy bunkers."

First Lieutenant James Fritschi, 29, recalled the evening of Feb. 26, when the artillery volley began. "At 5.15 p.m. we fired the first rounds of the ground battle." Other reports, however, put the firing closer to 6:30 p.m.

The 1st Platoon leader said the battalion first encountered one Iraqi BMP - an armored personnel carrier - as well as an enemy truck and two enemy aircraft in their initial foray.

"We were prepared to shoot all day and night for two days; but the battle only took 18 hours." Once the land was secured, 3rd Brigade rolled past, while 4/82 maintained their position in Iraq, near the Kuwaiti border.

The driver, Spec. Preston Brown of Thomson, Ga., let loose with the first words after the call for fire came over the radio. With an adrenaline surge and intensity in his voice, he shouted, "It's our time to do what we've got to do." After that, Brown said, everything got easier. "After the first round, I felt relieved." But he had no idea the battle would have such a short life. "When it first kicked off, I thought it might last a week or two."

Despite Heare's assertion that the crew was relatively calm, Pvt.2 James Haynes, a 19-year-old from Madison, Ill., was plenty frightened by traveling into the battle. "While I was bringing over a round, I saw a light, meaning that the war was on. So I had to get a friend to calm me down." Haynes admitted that he sought refuge behind the gun as the shots started to ring out. He said that his show of fear rallied the crew to give him a hand. "The section made me feel like one of the guys."

For Haynes, who helps drive and picks up rounds, his tour of duty was prefaced with only Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training. Once he left Fort Sill, Okla., in November, he traveled to Germany, only to get orders for duty in the Middle East. "I didn't get to the field until I hit Saudi Arabia."

Twenty-one-year-old Kewaukee Carey was beyond belief. While he was waiting for the mission to come over the radio, he was also waiting for incoming rounds. But there weren't any. "It was just like a regular field problem. There wasn't time to be nervous," said Pfc. Carey, an assistant driver from El Dorado, Ark.

Going into the battle, though, Carey remembered the gloom in the atmosphere. "The skies had been gray and hazy and it was getting dark."

And when night rolled around, the surroundings were pitch black. When the battle finally kicked off, he said, a movie camera would've been a handy device to catch all of the fireworks.

As far as Carey was concerned, the first round was worth waiting for. "You don't think about making history. That's pretty good for someone this young to have something you strive to achieve in and actually get a chance to perform."

Carey puts his role in the battle on line with his personal growth. "For once, I'm giving more of myself. I'm clearing a path for others."

As for the members of his crew in Charlie Battery, the path was cleared for a spot in 3AD history books.

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