After shaking up Fort Bragg, the U.S. Marines ended their annual training, Operation Rolling Thunder, March 22. During this exercise, Marines and Sailors were able to train for deployment-like scenarios by shooting machine guns, participating in squad attacks and becoming proficient in their skills with artillery training.

“There are people out there right now training to hurt us, and we need to always be prepared for that,” said Lance Cpl. Benjamin Strube, Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division.

In preparation for Soldier readiness, there are different components that have to blend in order for a live fire mission to be successful. The three major components are the forward observer (FO), the fire direction center (FDC) and the cannoneers.

The first component, the FO, is also known as the “eye” of the operation.

“It’s our job to find the targets, get direction, distance and to pull up grid coordinates on them,” said Strube. “The FO probably has one of the most stressful jobs in the Marine Corps just because you have so much going on. There is so much information being thrown at you all at once.”

The second component, the FDC, comes into play when Marines are under attack and need fast and accurate fire support. It is the “brains” of the operation and responsible for computing how wind, air pressure, temperature, humidity and other weather conditions will affect an artillery round so it will have an accurate impact.

“We have a weather report we get every day because the weather can affect the rounds,” said 1st Sgt. Howard R. Reece, India Battery, 3rd Bn., 14th Marine Regt., 4th Marine Div.

To control the FDC, the fire direction officer, operations chief and box operators must work together. The support of the FDC is crucial for the artillery to aim their howitzers and choose the correct explosive charge for the mission.

The final component, the cannoneers, inspect and prepare ammunition and the howitzer for firing. This includes laying for elevation, deflection and loading the piece.

“I am in charge of the rounds, making sure every round is sent downrange correctly,” said Lance Cpl. Shane Ross, an ammunition technician with India Battery, 3rd Bn., 14th Marine Regt., 4th Marine Div. “The rounds vary in weight. Some can be 90 pounds. They go up to 115.”

Ross talked about his role in the live fire, teamwork and how communication is vital for their job field.

“Communication is the biggest part of artillery. Without communication, we wouldn’t be able to send rounds down range,” he said. These components must work together as “one body” in order to have a successful live fire mission when it comes to training or deployments.