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New guns and missiles bring biggest change to artillery in 40 years

Army field artillery units are expected to make a much more with their big guns than in the recent past and more is in store as new systems and better platforms and ammunition reach strength.

To train these cannon cockers so they are ready to deliver devastating fire on command, the Field Artillery School Commander Brig. General Andrew Preston and his staff update, add to and revise the way they train gunners for future combat.

Army Times spoke with Preston ahead of the Association of the US Army’s annual meeting and exposition.

The questions and answers section below has been edited for clarity and space.

Tell Army Times readers what are some of the significant items of interest at Field Artillery School since October 2020?

We continued to invest heavily in professional development and talent management. We are evaluating and adjusting our curriculum for our career course and our core leadership course. My staff has visited three of the 10th Division’s artillery headquarters and is planning visits to the other seven. In our Advanced Leader Course, we expanded the field training exercise, adding a 72-hour field exercise to the NCO training. This culminates in live field artillery fire where the non-commissioned officers of the five field artillery MOS use all sensors for all gunners. We are also moving forward to increase our Master Field Artillery Gunner course from two weeks to five weeks.

How has the shift in focus to long range sniper priority with the Army CFT affected the FA School?

This is a subject that really fascinates me. We are undergoing perhaps our most complete transformation in 40 years. Extended Range Barrel Artillery, or ERCA, and Precision Strike Missile, or PrSM, will require us to modify current doctrine, training products to add these new systems. I have never seen field artillery given the priority and interest that it currently receives. Soon the first long-range hypersonic battery will be in place, training will begin on mid-range fire capabilities, enabling ERCA and PrSM and later this fall the Army will set up the theater fire element and theater fire command. We will coordinate with these units to get feedback on training at the school.

What new technologies have been introduced to the school/training in the past year? How has this changed, improved the training?

The biggest technology change has been the increased integration of simulations into our training. We put students through six days of simulation through fire support teams and fire direction so they can maximize rehearsals. More missions observed and processed. The students appreciate this and feel more confident. Simulators do not replace on-the-job training, but they do radically change the role that “red legs” can play in rehearsal and execution before actual fires.

Todd South has written about crime, the courts, government and the military for several publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer Finalist for a co-authored project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Navy veteran of the Iraq War.