SLUNJ, Croatia -- Sergeant Shawn Shoulders did not need to speak Croatian to understand how to fire the artillery cannon in front of him.
"Arty is arty," said the Fairmont, W.V. native and Section Chief with Battalion Landing Team 2/2's India Battery, part of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), looking at the Croatian D-30 gun during artillery cross training as part of Exercise Slunj 2000.
Shoulders was right. Like the Battery's own 155mm Howitzer, the D-30 is fired by loading a primer and pulling a lanyard.
"That was awesome," said GySgt. Clay Parikh, Battery Gunnery Sergeant, as the round exploded into the air. "I bet he was one of the first Americans to fire one of those things."
Though there is no way to tell just how many Americans have fired the D-30, shoulders was part of the first MEU ever to offload into Croatia. This gave Shoulders' unit a chance to learn about the Croatian artillery forces, while the Croatians in turn learned about American artillery.
According to Parikh, though the two countries did not fire side-by-side, they transported groups from one camp to another.
Shoulders said the first thing he noticed was how Croatians got information to their gun line. India Battery uses a fire direction control center. That center radios each gun with the coordinates for that shot. The Croatians use a small computer, and their fire control center transmits coordinates via the electronic device.
"It was pretty amazing," he said.
Six years ago, Croatia was involved in a war for their independence. This combat experience is something the Marines also took from the Croatians.
"They know their way works," said Parikh. "These guys have been through battle. It is good for the younger Marines to talk to men who know why all this training is important."
Some of the Croatians said they were surprised by the ages of the Marines from the Battery.
"They were young," said Croatian Army Sgt. Pokos Stjepah. "All these young men were making the calculations to the weapons and hitting their targets very well. They looked like kids. We have young people in our military, but they usually do not do jobs like this."
Stjepah also said though he enjoyed his time with the Marines, he wishes it could have been longer.
"We worked together for a few days," he said. "I would like to see more American artillery units come in and train with us."
Though in their brief time together, both the Croatians and American artillerymen said they noticed their jobs and equipment were very similar.
"They have the same types of positions we do in our gun team, like a gunner, an assistant gunner and an ammo man," said Shoulders.
"These weapons were made in different parts of the world by different people," said Stjepah. "And we all ended up doing pretty much the same thing. That's pretty amazing."
"Arty is arty," repeated Shoulders.