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5RAR Afghanistan

 

Mentoring Task Force 2, Battle Group Tiger Australian Infantryman's Combat Badge
I81 Mortar Section
Map of Afghanistan

On the 5th of March 2011 the Tangi valley erupted once again with the sounds of small arms and high explosive fire. O33C and attachments were once again in contact, receiving effective PKM (Kalashnikov machine gun) and rifle fire from multiple enemy positions in the high ground. With the insurgent using their weapon ranges and the defilade firing positions to their advantage, the ground call signs were having difficulty in applying effective return fire. The JFO (Joint Fires Officer) identified several positions and started to send through a fire mission.

We had been monitoring and battle-tracking the contact from the mortar line and the boys knew that a fire mission was imminent. This was the first supporting mission for us, the newly formed Mortar section, I81.

In the February of 2011, 9’r identified a need for another Mortar element to be raised to support the actions of Combat Team Charlie (CT-C) in the Deh Rawud Area of Operations. The other two Combat teams had a mortar section attached to them respectively, but CT Charlie did not, which was a concern as a portion of the expansive Deh Rawud AO (Area of Operations) was out of range of the 155mm Artillery. This section needed to be raised and equipped rapidly as well as be manned from within the MTF-2 Battle group. The call went out to identify mortar qualified personnel. Soon, 9 soldiers were identified and moved from their different teams to raise this new Section. All of these soldiers came from different areas of operation and were recruited from both Rifle sections and Mentoring teams. Most of the lads had already weathered multiple engagements with the enemy and the prospect of hitting them with mortars made the transition from Rifle Section/Mentoring team easy.

Due to the fact that Mortaring wasn’t the role any of us had been training for in preparation for this tour of duty, and as well as the fact that it had been a while for most of the boys, a crash refresher course and certification was required to get our hands back into the art of mortaring. After rigorous training, countless crash actions, deliberate set ups and rehearsing every possible action on, the assessing staff deemed us ‘certified’ for the purpose of deploying out into an active AO and providing top notch offensive support. We were also allocated our call sign, I81.

So on the 20th of February, we took our vehicle with a trailer load of ammunition and moved out to the Deh Rawud AO, and later, to Patrol Base Qarib in the Tangi Valley.

The fire mission came through loud and clear…
“I81 this is G13B fire mission section over.”

This was the moment we had all been waiting for. When I called ‘section positions!’ the boys were already there. Grid, Altitude, direction followed ... ‘Machinegun position, at my command 2 rounds bedding in fire followed by 1 round fire’. The clear air authority to engage was requested, data calculated, issued and checked. The number two’s had the bombs poised and the number one’s were crouching on their base plates, wrists resting on the bipods, ready for the command to fire. The CPOA (Command Post Operator Assistant) reported ‘ready’ to the JFO. The JFO simply replied ‘ready, fire’. So we did.

‘Fire!’ was screamed to the line with the number two’s dropping their first rounds down the barrels simultaneously. A correction was given followed by ‘4 rounds fire for effect’. The 8 rounds found their target with an ‘end of mission, no effective fire from that position’ reported back. We fired 26 rounds that day in multiple missions.

Since then, we have been used again firing 31 High explosive rounds for several missions in support of another day’s contact. The effect our fire has had on the enemy is positive. Intercepted enemy transmissions have indicated that they received casualties from our fire and even requested reinforcements due to the detrimental effect the accurate mortar fire was having. We have the ability when used to deny the enemy the ability to completely dominate the high ground. Plus, for the boys on the ground I’m certain it raises morale to see incoming bombs landing on an enemy position that seconds earlier was suppressing them.

Members of I81 Mortar Section 5RAR

There are still a few months left on our tour with fighting season about to kick off good and proper. I’m sure I81 will manage to remain gainfully employed, supporting our mates and destroying the enemy in contact with high end, accurate and devastating indirect fire.

 

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