Virginia Guard indirect fire infantrymen train on new mobile kit for 120mm mortars

Virginia National Guard indirect fire infantrymen train on the newly-fielded M326 120mm Mortar Stowage Kit, or MSK, and execute fire missions Sept. 16, 2017, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda H. Johnson)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Virginia National Guard indirect fire infantrymen trained on the newly-fielded M326 120mm Mortar Stowage Kit, or MSK, and executed fire missions Sept. 16, 2017, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The M326 MSK is a trailer-mounted system allowing Soldiers to quickly emplace, fire and stow the fully-assembled, 300-pound 120mm mortar.

The two-week course consisted of classroom work, field training exercises and live fire range time to certify 52 Soldiers from the Portsmouth-based 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th IBCT and the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th IBCT.

“The exercise went great,” said 1st Lt. Ronnie Brown, a mortars platoon leader assigned to 3-116th. “In the past, the 120mm was more of a stationary system, but now that we can tow it, we can move it almost anywhere.”

The trailer improves mobility, speed of transport, set-up and emplacement, explained Brown. The trailer can be attached to different types of tactical vehicles in a quick attachment and detachment process.

“The major benefits are accuracy, as well as to have rounds down range in less than three minutes,” said Brown.

The newly fielded equipment included in the M326 MSK are the trailer assembly and the Mortar Fire Control System, with version 7.0 software. This computer program links the fire control element with the gun crew to improve speed, accuracy, lethality and crew survivability, said Brown. The GPS embedded in the program gives the mortar teams the capability to sync anywhere in the world and provides immediate data for fire missions.

“We are the first unit in the entire army to field the 7.0 software,” said Brown. “The 7.0 is upgraded software from the 6.3 version. The newest feature is the ability to send warning orders to the gun line.”

The four-Soldier gun crews received fire missions and fired mortars, their communication and team work refining with every round.

“Once we learned the process, it was more user-friendly and we improved quickly,” said Staff Sgt. James Magnanelli, assigned to 3-116th “The different configuration was good, but there’s a few parts of the program they can make better.”

Based on this fire exercise and the feedback from the Soldiers using the version 7.0 software, the system will be altered per their recommendations and upgraded, explained Magnanelli. Once the changes have been implemented, version 7.1 will be pushed out to the rest of the Army.