SLUNJ, Croatia -- It might be a deafening blast to some, but Sgt. Highhorse Little calls it music.
"It's rolling thunder," said the artillery gun team member with Battalion Landing Team 2/2's India Battery, part of 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable). "That's the song that [infantrymen] want to hear."
Little's song is the blast of the Battery's M-198 155mm Howitzer artillery cannon. The MEU's recent exercise, Slunj 2000, gave him his first opportunity to hear that music in more than eight months.
According to 1stLt. Thomas Parker, Executive Officer with the Battery and Wilmington, N.C. native, many artillery detachments go through entire MEU deployments without having a chance to fire.
Part of the reason for this is the weapon's overwhelming power. The gun alone weighs more than eight pickup trucks, and has a range of roughly eighteen miles.
Its destructive power is more overt than its size. The high explosive round, one of the weapon's weakest munitions, could wipe out a football field full of enemy forces. If the battery were to fire their more lethal rounds with all six guns, they could functionally eliminate a small town.
However, Parker points out total destruction is not their primary mission.
"It would just take too many rounds," he said. "We're going to suppress and neutralize the enemy. We want to keep his head down while the infantry closes in. What we will do is take out enough of his equipment and operators to render him combat ineffective for a period of time."
That process begins with forward observers within each infantry company. They are responsible for radioing coordinates of firing positions to the Battery's fire direction control (FDC) center.
Once the FDC receives the information, they begin an in-depth process of mathematically determining exactly where the round must be fired in order to hit the target.
"We are sending a round over several miles, so any tiny factor can adjust where that round goes. So we take everything into consideration," said 1stLt. Trinity Persful, FDC Officer and Radcliff, Kent. native. "We fly meteorological balloons to determine how gravity will affect the round and how far it will drift due to its own spin. We even take the rotation of the Earth into consideration."
The FDC will pass their information to the gun line, where the gun team will adjust and fire their weapon accordingly.
During Slunj 2000, the FDC did a good job of taking everything into consideration, as the Battery hit nearly all their targets.
"I love the job," said Little. "It is that Marine thing I signed up for. You're
in the elements. There's the rain. The cold. The sun. The dirt and mud.
"A lot of sweat goes on out here. It is a hard time, but it all pays off when we get a fire mission. All that work, all that adrenaline, it's all worth it when that gun goes off."