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