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March 30, 2005

Hmm. Training. Practice Practice Practice!

"All stations this net, all stations this net, CEASE FIRE FREEZE, CEASE FIRE FREEZE!"

Every artilleryman's nightmare radio call. Resulting in this crew command:

"To the rear of the piece, Fall In!"

Which, in Idaho, I guess resulted in this conversation:

"Gee, maybe this artillery stuff *is* harder than we thought, Joe."

Last year about this time, in a post since deleted, I mentioned that the Army asset managers were recalling howitzers on-loan to ski resorts for avalanche control duties - the only known (to me) commercial use of full bore Artillery in this country anyway... We were short guns and parts and it was a quick fix. Why we didn't give them some of the older guns we still have in storage, I dunno, mebbe we did. The article below uses a picture which indicates the offending piece could be an old M101 howitzer.

Apparently, we didn't take enough back... or at least we left some in the hands of local officials, without a good, grizzled Staff Sergeant in charge... At least that's what this post thoughtfully provided by Mike at Davidson's Law would suggest. The Utah Department of Transportation spokesman said:

Fitzgerald said the cannon was fired from a fixed launch site on the north side of Provo Canyon — a spot above Sundance — that's been used many times before. "Most of our firing is done when we cannot see the target," he said. "That's when we have avalanches, when it's storming." The blast was at least 3 miles off course. Avalanche-control operations are being temporarily suspended in Provo Canyon until officials can determine how the accident happened. UDOT blames the misfire on too much gunpowder.
I don't. I blame the gun chief, or the person who certified him. And it wasn't a misfire - but don't get me started on the article writer's flinging about the terms bomb and mortar - and howitzer... It was a charge error. And only attributable to human error. Reality check - the round *always* goes where it's aimed - you just have to make sure that where the gun is aimed, and where you want the round to land are the same place... As we see here - correct direction with wrong quadrant elevation (angle of the tube combined with the amount of force applied via the powder - and probably issues of target height in relation to the gun called 'site' in redleg-speech) caused the aiming point of the gun to not coincide with the intended point of impact...
UDOT spokesman Geoff DuPaix said the shells come pre-packaged in bundles, so it isn't clear who is responsible for using the larger charge.

I do. Whoever was in charge of the gun. Or whoever sent out the untrained crew, that's who.

Charge error? C'mon guys, you *never* pull the lanyard without counting the powder increments being held up by the guy at the powder pit, and verifying fuze setting, deflection, and quadrant! Just like this Gun Chief verifying the fuze setting before Number 1 rams the round. If you forget to do that 'round these parts, you find yourself with a new job, and the hint to start looking for a new career. Just like the guy on the left in this picture, holding up the unused charge bag in his left hand - so the Gun Chief can personally verify that Charge 6 is in the chamber - because Charges 7&8 are in the Powder Monkey's hands. Everybody in the crew has a job - and every setting is checked twice, by different people - just like the data was before it got to the gun - BEFORE YOU PULL THE LANYARD.

What? "Guy at the powder pit?" "Check the settings?" "Count the increments?" We don't need to do all that stuffy *Army* stuff, geez.

Of course, I'm assuming they even opened up a TFT (tabular firing table) or used a GFT (graphical firing table). Not that it would have mattered with a charge error of that magnitude.

While I'm relieved to know the County Sheriff is investigating, I hope they call in some expert help.

I don't think Sharon, the writer, who uses bomb, shell, howitzer, cannon, and mortar interchangeably, and refers to the firing point as a 'launch site' is going to be much use. She is at least consistent with her use of 'shrapnel'... although the purist would use 'fragments' because shrapnel, in a pure geek technical sense, is a submunition... but the language is what the people say it is, not stuffy technical quibblers like me! I wonder what Lt. (later LTG) Henry Shrapnel would think? Probably that it's way cool his family name is now a common word... Read his bio - and how the Brit gov't screwed him.

John | Permalink | Comments (27) | Observations on things Military
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