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Tomahawks mortar platoon proves they’re ‘on point’

Published: 01:37PM October 16th, 2013

Staff Sgt. Chris McCullough

Spc. Bill Savage (right), Company C, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment "Tomahawks", looks on as Pvt. Daniel Pichardo (left) Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 1-23 Inf., receives a call for fire on the radio that Spc. Samuel Aikey, Company C, will answer with a 60mm mortar round that Pvt. Dotson, HHC, will fire in support of the line platoons assaulting their objective at Yakima Training Center, Oct. 12.

YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. – The “Tomahawks” mortar platoon, with Company C, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, conducted live fire mortar training during multi-day exercise at Yakima Training Center, Wash.

The mortar platoon is a combination of Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, along with C Company, 1-23 Inf., 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“Our basic job is to provide indirect fire support with our mortar systems to battalion maneuver elements,” said 1st Lt. Matt Brown, mortar platoon sergeant, HHC, 1-23 Inf. Brown said the mortar platoon supported the Tomahawks infantry platoons whose members were elsewhere on the range that day.

That objective involved mock conventional forces, which is in keeping with the larger, overall shift by the U.S. Army — commonly referred to as decisive action — to be prepared not only for insurgent threats, like those faced in Afghanistan, but for conventional militaries as well.

“With decisive action we’re fighting more sophisticated enemies, better equipment, better trained armies,” said Staff Sgt. Kealia Lanning, mortar section sergeant, C Co., 1-23 Inf. “So we have to refer back to our [technical manuals] more and start building our fighting positions, our defensive positions [and] our offensive positions.”

The response by many Soldiers to their decisive action training has been largely positive, with Soldiers like Spc. Dustin Ward, C Co., 1-23 Inf., saying they preferred it over counterinsurgency training.

“I believe it’s better because it gives a better understanding of what the differences are between a COIN fight and a conventional fight against an actual organized army with (a) better trained, better equipped army (than the insurgents),” Ward said.

Even 9/11 veterans, like the mortars platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Kerry Newman, agree.

“For me, this is going back to the old school. It’s what I did for years before Iraq and Afghanistan. This is just going to make them a more well-rounded, lethal Soldier. They’ll be able to react to what fight they get. If they find themselves in an insurgent situation, they’ve got that COIN knowledge, but if they’re fighting a standardized army with counter battery, artillery, this is going to increase their survivability and lethality of the unit,” Newman said.

The Tomahawks commander, Lt. Col. Corey Crosbie, is especially proud of his Soldier’s accomplishments as he observed them move from COIN-centric training to decisive action over the course of the last four weeks.

“This was an awesome platoon collective live fire training event allowing Tomahawk platoons to hone their skills with mounted and dismounted maneuver (and) controlling direct and indirect fires,” Crosbie said. “Platoons left the objective having learned many lessons and were more confident in their weapon systems, trusting of their buddies on the left and right, and more prepared than when we started this event.”