KAZLA RUBA, Lithuania – Known as "Morgan's Men," the Soldiers in the Kentucky Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery Regiment can trace their unit's lineage to an American Civil War cavalry raider named John Hunt Morgan. Much like Morgan did in his day, today's Soldiers in the unit travel great distances to conduct their missions.
Their most-recent travels have brought them to Lithuania for the annual Saber Strike 18 exercise. Saber Strike is a multinational exercise scheduled to run from June 3-15 that tests the 19 participating nations on their ability to work together as a cohesive team and helps each participating element maintain readiness.
Capt. Paul Chandler, a battery commander in 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery Regiment, said his unit's focus while training in Europe is to support U.S. Army Europe, primarily the 2d Cavalry Regiment. There are several events in Poland and in the Baltics the unit is expected to participate with the 2CR.
Among the events that Chandler believes key in the unit's current deployment are the transport of the 623rd Field Artillery's High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, HIMARS, to Europe and several upcoming maneuver drills in Poland and Lithuania. The logistical challenges in moving 24,000-pound precision artillery fire system cannot be understated. Chandler said moving them from Kentucky to Europe is a first for his unit.
The HIMARS is designed to engage and defeat artillery, air defense concentrations, trucks, light armor and personnel carriers, as well as support troop and supply concentrations. HIMARS launches its weapons and moves away from the area at high speed before enemy forces locate the launch site. Its first combat deployment was by the United States during the Iraq war in 2007.
In the lead up to scheduled live-fire training in the region, the unit is drilling on fundamental procedures necessary for successful fires, said Capt. Brian Stafford, an operations officer assigned to the 623rd FA. This includes crew drills that test the proficiency of each Soldier that operates the HIMARS. Among the tasks in which the crews must be adept is spontaneous reception of a fire support mission.
The 623rd FA is expected to train in Europe for several weeks before returning to the United States.