U.S. Army Europe Soldiers use Soviet-era howitzers to train with French forces for Afghanistan

By U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs
Nov. 18, 2010

A French soldier (right) works with an observer-controller trainer from U.S. Army Europe’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center to set up sighting systems for the D-30 howitzer, in Hohenfels, Germany, Nov. 17. The U.S. and French troops trained together on the Soviet-era D-30 during Operational Mentor and Liaison Team training designed to prepare members of both forces to train the Afghan National Army on the weapon system. (Photo by Sgt. Joel Salgado)
A French soldier (right) works with an observer-controller trainer from U.S. Army Europe’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center to set up sighting systems for the D-30 howitzer, in Hohenfels, Germany, Nov. 17. The U.S. and French troops trained together on the Soviet-era D-30 during Operational Mentor and Liaison Team training designed to prepare members of both forces to train the Afghan National Army on the weapon system. (Photo by Sgt. Joel Salgado)

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- French artillery crews and Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry of U.S. Army Europe’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center here are now getting their first hands-on training with the D-30 howitzer used by the Afghan National Army.

The course is designed to familiarize NATO forces with the Soviet-era howitzer before a deployment to Afghanistan, during which NATO Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams plan to train ANA troops to use the weapon.

This is the first time JMRC has used the actual D-30 for training after obtaining the howitzers from Croatia, said Maj. Kirk J. Junker, Operations Observer-Controller Trainer for the JMRC’s Vampire operations training team.

Having the guns allows NATO forces completing OMLT training here can learn the basics of preparing the gun for firing and setting up aiming devices.

“Artillerymen just want to train the entire system, not just a part of it,” said Junker.

“This is the first time we are able to put the entire system together and train it so guys have a familiarity with it before they go ‘downrange’ and work on the D-30s and train Afghans on it,” the major added. “We finally achieved our vision of what Operational Mentor and Liaison Team training should be here at JMRC.”

Lt. Col. Martial Reinbold, chief of operations for the French artillery battalion that has been training with the JMRC teams on the D-30 this month, praised that training for its combination of technical instruction and mentoring that helps NATO forces to teach the ANA.

Participants also learned to operate the Afghan Field Artillery Computer, a system designed to help NATO forces translate Russian sighting systems into their NATO equivalents, and improved their basic skills plotting targets on a map.