Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Battery deployments

L5 Oto Melara 105 mm mountain gun

One of my most happy moment as a Gunner was Battey deployments. I had my fair share of excitements being a GPO, Section Comd, Troop Comd, Bty Comd and CO. Battery deployments are the same at all levels of command. Get the guns in, choose the battery center and center of arc, pass the line, lay the guns and report battery ready. Wow isn't that a lot full? Day deployments, night deployments, underslung from helis deployments, assault boat deployments and not forgeting quick action deployments. All deployments without the GPS. Only equipment issued were the wonderful 1:50000 maps, compass, theodilite, measurement tape, yes, measurement tape, and eyeballs MK 1.

I would believe that I had deployed my guns in the most awesome, sometimes awkward gun positions. I still hold the record for deployment to the highest gun position level in Malaysia. I had personally deployed up the top of Gunung Bintang, at 6020 feet in OP KERANGAN. Feeling on top of the world. Google for the mountain in Kedah. Targets were 360 degrees around us and all below gun sight elevations. But we did not point the barrel downwards. We still could fire targets at high angles. It is interesting to note that fire orders still computed to elevation for range and not depression. The actual compensation for the difference in depression of gun height and target heights are done at the gun sights. The L5 Oto Melara is after all designed as a mountain gun. I felt at par with the elite mountain batteries of the Italy, Pakistan, India and South American Artillery regiments.

Kg Karangan on top left corner

Gunung Bintang was a very tight position. An open area of no larger than a Nuri LP. However this is the only time I had no problem with getting the bty grids. The fixed trig point structure of the mountain was barely 50 feet away. It was a breeze taping the distance to get our Battery Grid. No need for GPS. Only one gun could be deployed up there. We couldn't fix the aiming posts for the gun sights so we had to use the prism scope to lay. In all, the position could accomodate me, a GPO, three CP personnel and the gun detachment. We all slept beside the gun under ponchos. No CP tent. No luxuries of the wagon line. Everything was underslung up there, ammo, rations and even water. The gun position was very cold, and particullary at night temperatures fell below 10 degrees C. We had to adjust for the temperature of the ammo charge bags. We thought our IGs only taught us this need to adjust ammo temperature was only to impress us and I couldn't imagine I had to adjust for ammo temperatures in a gun position in Malaysia.

Cordite smells most pungent and exotic in the cold crips air. Believe me, 2 rounds FFE was enough to get all time highs smelling the cordites that does not moves away quickly. It just lingers with the wet mist up in Gunung Bintang. It beats snuffing of anything else by a mile. But did anybody do a research on the carcinogic level of cordite? Most people choke in cordite.

We were deployed up Gunung Bintang for a good two weeks, firing HF tasks deep below. The three infantry battalions below, in three different directions were geting the best fire support uninterupted from one gun. We could fire anywhere and everywhere. Meals were stricly COMPO, no fresh rations. Water rationed. No baths. Heli only came once as my BK always reported NO PRIORITY for heli taskings for us. We had to literally expand all our first line ammo before coming down as it was too dangerous and uneconomical to underslung the ammo down.

Who says battery deployments are all the same? Yes same, same, But not the same. Let me share my most scary deployment to an old LP clearing up in the Malaysian Thai border in my next post. And yes more deployment stories as I recollect my happy moments. Gunners never live a dull life.

Allen Lai

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