After a long day and an exhausting patrol in vicinity of west Baghdad, when the platoon got the call over FM radio that no one wants to hear after spending more than 12 hours patrolling Iraqi neighborhoods in the hot sun.
“Turn around and go back out to help the Iraqi Army,” said Spc. William Babineau, a native of Charlotte, N.C., and forward observer with 3rd detachment, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team.
While flicking the ashes from a burning cigarette, Babineau recalled the scene on the ground.
“When we arrived, the IA soldiers were taking heavy contact from two floors of a three story building, and at that time, we decided to call in close air support. I told the Iraqi army major to get his guys back because we are going to drop a bomb on the building.”
Babineau said after they received clearance from higher headquarters to execute the CAS request, they were able to drop a 500-pound precision guided bomb on the building, which neutralize the enemy threat and allowed the IA forces to break contact and regroup at a local base with no injuries.
“A forward observer and his radio are capable of destroying anything on the battlefield,” Babineau said with a grin.
He shares this story and others like it with fellow forward observers to help bring perspective to the forward observer’s role on the battlefield.
“It helps them relate what they are doing in training to what can actually happen,” according to Babineau.
Training, as with all military occupational specialties, is necessary to maintain tactical and technical proficiency.
To assess their combat effectiveness, the guardsmen conduct their annual field training exercise at multiple locations and ranges at Fort Bragg, N.C.
“This is the premiere collective training event for the unit this year,” said Lt. Col. Tobin R. Clifton, a Charlotte native and battalion commander, 1st Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment, 30th ABCT, N.C. Army National Guard. “This is our chance to conduct full-blown battalion operations as we prepare to provide direct fire support for the 30th ABCT.”
Like their active duty counterparts, National Guard soldiers must maintain individual, section and unit level certifications.
“We will come out of this exercise with certified paladin sections, fire supporters and fire direction crews,” said Clifton. “It’s also our best chance to incorporate forward observers and their teams in the collective training.”
With many skills that are often times considered perishable, the forward observers get training whenever and wherever they can.
“You have to brush up during your off time at home, or else you will lose your skills,” said Staff Sgt. Donavan Bell, a team leader from 3rd Detachment, HHC, 1st Battalion, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th ABCT, N.C. National Guard. “It is important to know all of the ways to do this job.”
A forward observer must use a variety of techniques to employ timely and accurate effects on targets by close air support, naval gunfire, cannon or mortar fire in order to provide fire support to units and commanders on the battlefield.
“I am the king of battle,” said Babineau. “It is my job to rain death on the enemies of my country with every asset the United States has to offer.”
Throughout military history, the field artillery has become known as the “king of battle”, and nothing displays the king’s power more than the forward observer.