National Guard Soldiers Train with the Big Guns

By Mark Geary, Reporter

Iowa National Guard soldiers are preparing to head to Afghanistan later this year.

Soldiers get a rush of adrenaline as they fire at enemy targets using a Howitzer.

"It's a great feeling. The boom. The smell. Every little intangible you have is right there," said Sgt. Brandon Bumham.

Each 50 pound shell costs at least $2,500. Soldiers rarely get the chance to practice with live ammunition.

"The round goes off right by my head."

"The large net draped over the gun helps camouflage it from the outside and also helps disrupt enemy radar," said Sgt. James Johnson.

Before anyone pulls the launch lever, the entire team checks all the equipment and makes sure everything's on target.

"A couple inches down here makes a huge difference down range," said Johnson.

But, the guys with the gun don't decide when or where to fire. Not too far away, these soldiers line up the coordinates for the troops out in the field both by hand and with the help of electronics. Sometimes those numbers don't match.

"It happens on occasion. When that happens, we don't send that down, obviously," said Spc. Chancy Chipman.

Computer software can take other factors like weather into account. Too much rain or wind could send a round off course.

"It's a crazy job to have. It's a lot of work, but when you're out there rockin' and rollin', it's a really good time," said Burnham.

Anyone standing near the explosive shell can feel the power of the gun when it goes off. Trust me, I know first-hand. As the soldiers told me, it's going to be a bad day for enemies on the other end of the barrel.
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