National Guard Soldiers learn mortarman skills, earn 11C MOS

Army National Guard Soldiers enrolled in the 11C Indirect Fire Infantryman course, taught at the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, fire mortars during the live fire portion of the course March 19, 2014, at Fort Pickett. The two-week class brought together six Soldiers from states including Virginia, Hawaii, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Upon completion of the course, the Soldiers will earn the 11C military occupational specialty. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Army National Guard Soldiers enrolled in the 11C Indirect Fire Infantryman course, taught at the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, fire mortars during the live fire portion of the course March 19, 2014, at Fort Pickett. The two-week class brought together six Soldiers from states including Virginia, Hawaii, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Upon completion of the course, the Soldiers will earn the 11C military occupational specialty. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – Army National Guard Soldiers from several states came together March 9-22, 2014, to become mortarmen at the 11C Indirect Fire Infantryman course at the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. The six Soldiers enrolled in the course came from states including Virginia, Kentucky, Hawaii, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

“The fundamentals of the course are teaching them the basics of being an 11C,” explained Staff Sgt. William Herndon, senior instructor for the course. “We teach them how to emplace the guns, how to run their crew drills, small and large deflections, how to manipulate the data and then how to provide effective fire on the targets.”

Indirect fire infantrymen act as members of a mortar squad, section or platoon, generally assigned at the infantry company or battalion level. Their primary job responsibility includes setting up, loading and firing three types of mortars: the 60mm, 81mm and the 120mm. Mortars have the most power and range of any weapon in the infantry unit arsenal when on the battlefield.

“This is something that I wanted to do, right off the bat, right after Basic Training,” said Pvt. Michael Vetare, a student in the class from the Connecticut National Guard. “I went to my unit and I had a good friend there who was a mortarman and I watched him and saw what he was doing it looked fun, so I figured, why not?”

The first phase of the course consisted of classroom time where the students spent time reviewing basic infantryman skills to ensure that all Soldiers have a solid grasp on the skills required to be an effective infantryman and to get Soldiers from non-infantry backgrounds up to speed.

The second phase of the course, called the “gun phase,” consists largely of hands-on training.

“That’s the majority of the class,” Herndon explained on the gun phase. “That’s where we teach them from Step A to Step Z how to emplace and operate a mortar system.”

“There are a lot of numbers, but it clicked,” Vetare said. The instructors made things simple. You go in and think that it’s going to be so hard, but they tell you keep doing what you’re doing and that you will get it and then you do. They didn’t stress us and they helped us. The training was very direct.”

The culminating event for the course was the live fire event, which allowed the Soldiers to fire the three types of mortars they’d spent the days prior learning about.

First, the Soldiers fired with the handheld, 60mm mortars, “used for engaging close-intargets using range estimation,” according to Herndon. Then, the Soldiers shot direct fire, a method of shooting mortars where the shooter can visualize his target. Finally, the Soldiers fired indirectly, using plotting boards and computers to calculate the required data to hit targets out of sight.

Upon successful completion of the course, the students earned the 11C military occupational specialty, or MOS.

“They put me as class leader and being the lowest rank it didn’t just teach me mortars, it taught me how to be a leader,” said Vetare. “It’s a great class. I love it. The whole experience was really amazing.”

Photos: Soldiers learn mortar skills at Virginia Guard schoolhouse – March 19, 2014