PV2 Kenneth Hawkins of Louisiana’s 3rd Battalion can fire a round as long as his arm. The process starts with speed, safety, and precision. And it ends with a thrill he can feel in his bones. In this interview, Hawkins describes what it’s like to be an 11C Indirect Fire Infantryman in the Army National Guard.
The training is cool. They tell you about your systems — the 60 mms, the 81 mms and the 120 mms. You get hands-on with each system. You set up bipods, they tell you the nomenclature of all the pieces. You learn how to put the bipod together and take it apart in less than a minute.
Powerful first impressions
The first time I shot a 120, I actually didn’t get to see the explosion, but I could hear it. The round was almost as big as my arm. I’m pretty sure it made a big gap in the ground. You fire it, and you wait 10 or 15 seconds before you hear this large explosion far off in the distance. Even with my ear protection in, I could just hear this big boom. I was like, I just did that.
When the 80s and 120s fire, you feel your body shaking. It’s right there on you. It kind of frightened me the first time. I heard that voom! That about did it for me.
Make sure your fingers are out of the way because if they’re not, you can lose a finger very easily.
The best advice I’ve been given is to yell when there is a misfire, to make sure everybody else is safe. There were a couple misfires with the 120 during basic training. If you were in a helicopter, it would have looked like a crowd of ants scattering off into the woods.
Steady as she goes
The 60s, you can hold with your hand and pretty much run with it. There is no bipod. You hold the mortar with whichever hand you use to aim at the target. There’s a trigger on the handle. You have to make sure you have a steady hand, because if you’re shaking, your round is going to end up somewhere else.
I’ll go where they need me
I’m infantry; I can do an 11 Bravo’s job if I need to. They can splish-splash me that way. Or if I need to go to the range to fire a few rounds, I can do that.
Hit the Hummer!
During training, they had a Humvee out on the field, and we were trying to hit it. It took me a couple tries to hit it. I wasn’t very steady the first time. Whenever somebody hit something, everybody celebrated, “Yeah! Do it again!”
For this and other jobs that can rock your world, visit the Guard’s jobs board and contact a recruiter today.
Original article by Matt Crossman was published in Volume 11, Issue 3 of GX magazine.