View Full Version : Fire Mission

01-25-2018, 01:17 PM
Oh the stories I could tell about my once M-270 driver, Angel Delmoral, and with a name like that it is no wonder. Angel was that half Puerto Rican member of the E-4 Mafia that always managed to find trouble. He had probably been back and forth between E-3 and E-4 more times than a battalions worth of E-4’s. I personally helped him back to E-3 at least once myself. He was one of those soldiers that spent all of his garrison time, well doing the things that will get you moved from Specialist back to Private. But once you removed him from all the distractions of life in garrison and put him in a field environment, well that was his time to shine. You couldn’t ask for a better soldier when he was in his element. Over the years he was shuffled from crew to crew, not many knew how to handle him nor wanted to deal with him. Me, I enjoyed having Angel as part of my crew. He rotated on and off my gun a couple of times, even requesting to come back to be my driver. I had a reputation for taking the un-desirables and turning them into a crew, even beyond that, a team. What is the saying, never a dull moment?

The secret to Angel was not lording it over him, not ruling with an iron fist, the secret was to give him a little bit of rein, let him run when you could. If you kept him on a tight leash it was like he became that rabid dog and he tended to bite the hand that feed him. Yeah sometimes you had to pull him back a bit, times like night convoys on dusty roads in black out drive. It can be a pretty harrowing experience to have the cat eyes on the track in front of you suddenly appear THAT close to you while trying to catch up, just saying. But there are the times when you just let him run. Times when you are out on the tank trails all by yourself, just your gun and no one else. Those times when you are briefed that the speed limit on the trails is only 15 mph, those times when Angel would pull off in the field adjacent to the trail and hammer down saying “Sarge they said 15 mph on the trail, I’m not on the trail!” Times like these you let him run, let him have his time.

Angel could drive, if nothing else in this world, he could drive. For those that haven’t driven an M-270 you might not understand how to drive ‘em. You can’t baby ‘em, you sometimes have to treat them like the bitch they are, drive it like you stole it was our favorite expression. And Angel did, he drove like the MP’s were hot on his tail. The M270 performs better when pushed just a bit. And beyond that Angel knew the limits of what she could take and how to get the best from her. He had a knack for knowing where each track was and could set a track right on the line as needed. He made reloads a breeze. I used to watch other crews doing their reloads and you would think the gun chief was on the flight deck of the Enterprise bringing in a squadron of fighter jets, arms wind milling madly through the air as he guided his launcher in an attempt to align them on the PODs. With Angel it was simple, I would scratch a line in the dirt, point to Angel, point to the line and he would pull up right on the line in perfect position first time, every time.

But I came here today to talk about that first live fire with Angel as my driver. Another one of those grueling AT’s at Camp Shelby in the stifling heat of a Mississippi June. Angel as a first time driver and new E-4 gunner, Mike Bankston. We had spent our time up to this point learning to be a crew and if I say so myself it was a pretty good one, a little unorthodox, a little out of the norm, not quite right, but yet a damn good crew. Like all AT’s we were cumulating all of our training into our final live fire event.

Over the years our live fires had grown and changed as the Battalion grew more accustomed to rocket artillery. As a unit we had evolved from duct taped fire switches and waiting for permission to fire, to true Hide Loc to Firing point, Fire When Ready missions. This was the first year that we actually were able to set up in a Hide Loc, receive the digital FWR mission, move to the firing point, and then fire rockets without waiting on fire commands from FDC. The only caveat was that as a gun chief we had to check our safety T prior to actually firing.

So here we sit, C-32, in our Hide Loc waiting for our fire mission. The mission comes in over the Fire Control Panel and off we go to our firing point which is just across the Tank Trail from the hide loc. Angel eases the launcher out and we cross the road, line up on the firing point and commence to get ready to fire. All the standard stuff, neutral pivot steer to get on the correct heading, suspension lockout, Launcher Lay, shutters closed, seal the cab and prepare to check the Safety T and firing. You can just feel the tension, it was both Angel and Mike’s first live fire mission. Of course by this time I’m an old hand and had done this once or twice or more. I’m trying to run through the numbers on the T and you can just about taste the nervous energy. The entire time I’m checking the T Angel is getting excited and eager, a ball of nervous energy, and chattering away ready to fire. My gunner thought he heard fire and even before I could utter a sound he sent the rockets downrange. I had just managed to verify the “T” so all was good, Mike was just a little too quick on the draw.

After that mission we went back to the Hide Loc where we had a brief internal AAR while waiting on the next mission. I explained the importance of taking a deep breath on the firing point, verifying data, and how critical radio discipline was over the VIC system so as not to make mistakes. In addition I also relayed to them that when we did get a fire mission that it was important to get to the firing point as quickly as we could, no half stepping, no easing it out there, that we needed to get on the firing point as quickly as possible to allow us this time to check and verify and still get rockets down range quicker than the rest.

Did I mention there was a ditch alongside the tank trail?

So with our first fire mission as a crew done and over with we sit in our Hide Loc waiting for the next one, and here it comes, “Fire Mission” and off we go! Angel took my words to heart and he wasted no time getting C-32 moving, off we go like a rocket! As we approach the tank trail we never once slowed down, hitting the ditch square on. If you never thought an M270 could fly without the assistance of a C-141 well, I’m here to say you would be wrong. We hit that ditch square, with a load of rockets on board, and C-32 launched herself skyward! Up and over, completely clearing the tank trail landing on the firing point. Angel slams her down, jerks the wheel over sliding into the Firing Point (on the correct heading I might add). Standard stuff, data checked, and rockets down range, another successful mission. You could tell that the first time jitters were done and over with and we were now a team. AAR this time was just “Great job guys, but next time let’s try not to get airborne across the trail.”

That was a good crew, we had a blast, and I think I would put that crew up against any and all crews past and present. There is a lot to be said for the un-desirables, the trouble makers, when the time comes and you treat them with respect, as soldiers and not criminals, they will perform and they will perform above and beyond the standard


01-25-2018, 03:58 PM
Well said, Chad - I could almost smell (and taste) the dust and diesel exhaust !! Thanks for posting ---


01-25-2018, 04:15 PM
Thanks. As I get older and further away from those days I find myself looking back at them. I realize that a lot of the terms used above are beyond many's comprehension, I actually wrote this for a different audience but I wanted to share it here as well.

Just in case you are wondering below is a M-270 and what we did.



01-25-2018, 07:58 PM
Good story, thanks Chad

01-25-2018, 08:42 PM
Chad, I understood 'most' of what you wrote - I 'ran' a 5"/54 gun mount (155 MM, I believe) for Inshore Gunfire Support during 3 deployments to the South China Sea - about 1500 yards offshore. Trade your dust and shrubbery for muddy water and sea snakes and it would be quite similar.


01-26-2018, 02:06 AM


Did not know about it.

01-26-2018, 07:24 AM
^ Seanz, I can't view that video - do not have the right browser on my tablet yet, but yeah - those projectiles bring back memories, we used to reload our magazines every 2 to 3 days, 25 tons at a time - by hand - no need for Nordic track or an exercise bike back then !


Paul Pless
01-26-2018, 07:27 AM
That was a good crew, we had a blast, and I think I would put that crew up against any and all crews past and present. There is a lot to be said for the un-desirables, the trouble makers, when the time comes and you treat them with respect, as soldiers and not criminals, they will perform and they will perform above and beyond the standard

Chadkinda like kelley's heroes

01-26-2018, 07:40 AM

Circa 1972 offshore Da Nang

01-26-2018, 07:50 AM
A good friend of mine who was also a gun chief with me was a former Navy Gunner's Mate.


01-26-2018, 08:57 AM
kinda like kelley's heroes

Or Pappy Boyington's outfit, the 'Black Sheep'. I read the book in middle school over 50 years ago.


01-26-2018, 11:04 AM
I watched that video in post # 6 via Firefox - it shows the IFS 1 USS Carronade firing rockets - I saw her alongside a pier in the Phillipines and thought -- " nice destroyer, then as I walked further, thought whoa, who left off the back of that ship !! - it looked strange compared to a traditional destroyer


John of Phoenix
01-26-2018, 11:16 AM
kinda like kelley's heroesOr any Army Aviator Warrant Officer.