Story and photo by Sgt. Adam Fischman, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
SHOSHONG, The Republic of Botswana –The ground shook as satchel and improvised Bangalore charges packed with C-4 explosives detonated, to clear the way for Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry, Aug. 11, in The Republic of Botswana.
Unrelenting mortar and small-arms fire filled the air with a deafening orchestra of explosions, as rounds impacted the dry, African desert. While support-for-fire rounds landed, infantrymen of Company A rushed the simulated battlefield through dust and debris in tactical bounding movements.
Mortarmen of C Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry, carry their equipment to their firing positions during a field training exercise at Southern Accord 2012 on Aug. 10, 2012, at Shoshong Range in Botswana, Africa.
"There is nothing like hearing the sound of a mortar. It's like magic."
Pfc. Brandon Wood
C Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry
Photo right: Pfc. Tyler Castor (left) and Pfc. Brandon Wood of C Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment, fire 60mm mortar rounds at the Shoshong Range.
The high-tempo assault and support-for-fire mission was
part of Southern Accord 2012, a large combined, joint exercise
designed to enhance military capabilities and interoperability between
U.S. military forces and the Botswana Defense Force.
"They're just like us," said Pvt. Rusty Rogers, an infantryman
with Company A, 1-114th. "Most of the BDF perform
the same jobs we do, just a little bit differently, which has
made it fun for us to learn from one another."
Once the dust settled, flames still smoldered from detonated
ordnance and expended ammunition, creating a mirage-
like haze in the air as U.S. Soldiers advanced toward
their objective to eliminate their target.
"This is my first time overseas and my first time firing
rounds with my new team," said Pfc. Brandon Wood with
Company C, 1-114th. "It's a whole new experience, far different
than what I expected. Learning a new culture and being
around my team for the first time has given me that deployment
mindset in an atmosphere close to the real thing."
Wood's favorite part about being a mortarman is firing
rounds and carrying the heavy gear. He said it is hard work,
but it feels like an accomplishment at the end of the day. He
also loves the sound of the rounds making contact.
"There is nothing like hearing the sound of a mortar,"
said Wood. "It's like magic."
Once the assault team reached the ridge where Company
C provided supporting fire, the teams switched, which
allowed the BDF a chance to run the lanes. Three separate
assaults and support-for-fire missions were completed in addition to the BDF live-fire missions.
"This has been a great opportunity to learn from one another," said Pvt. John Donatucciof Company C., 1-114th. "To see how the BDF run their missions and teach them how we run ours has provided great training…It's also a unique experience to train with a foreign military force."
Pvt. Jason Sanchez of A Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry, fires live rounds at Southern Accord 2012.