Norfolk-based Virginia National Guard Soldiers live fire new howitzers

FORT PICKETT - Virginia National Guard Soldiers from a Norfolk-based battalion are live firing new howitzers during their two weeks of annual training.

The soldiers are assigned to the Norfolk-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

The training is taking place at Fort Pickett, where the live fire of the new M777A2 155mm howitzers is the culmination of months of work as the unit transformed into a composite field artillery battalion.

As part of that transformation, two firing batteries are upgrading their howitzers to a newer model, and a third firing battery was activated to field a larger caliber howitzer.

A howitzer is an artillery piece, usually with a short barrel, capable of both high and low angle fire.

The battalion’s Hanover-based Alpha Battery and Norfolk-based Bravo Battery will field the M119 howitzer upgraded from the A2 to A3 model, and the Hampton-based Charlie Battery will receive new M777A2 howitzers. Both are towed systems, and the M119A3 is 105mm and the M777A2 is 155mm.

Charlie Battery was activated in January 2017 as part of the battalion’s ongoing transformation.

In May 2017 the Soldiers travelled to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as part of the Army Total Force Partnership Program to train with Soldiers from the 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division Artillery during a four-day drill weekend.

The training allowed Virginia Soldiers to become familiar with the new howitzer systems that the battalion is fielding during annual training.

Charlie Battery Soldiers had to learn features of the new weapon systems which requires heavier projectiles, a larger crew and features a digital fire control system, which is not on the M119A2 previously used in Virginia.