FDC Keeps C 1/11 on Point

19 Dec 2003 | Sgt. Mark P. Ledesma

When most people think about artillery support, the first things that come to mind are the artillerymen, also known as “cannoneers,” loading a heavy projectile into a cannon and firing it down range, creating a deafening bang and leaving destruction on its target. But it takes more than “pull string, go bang!” to place a projectile on point.Fire Direction Control Marines of Battery C 1/11, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, currently deployed with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), who are tasked with gathering and computing data to ensure artillery rounds land on target, recently brushed up their skills during live-fire field exercises held in the Central Command Region. “Without FDC, the gun line wouldn’t know where the rounds are landing,” said 1st Sgt. Martin E. Bock, C 1/11 first sergeant.According to Bock, very few Marines know how much work is put into placing a projectile on target. When most people think about howitzers the first thing that comes to mind are the cannoneers, he said. Because of this, many forget about the FDC Marines, who function as the brain of the battery. The FDC is comprised of field artillery fire control Marines, who are tasked with computing all the gathered data. Also included in the team is a meteorological Marine, tasked with gathering weather information, and radio operators, who control communication from the forward observers.According to Staff Sgt. Brian Collins, FDC operations chief, an artillery mission begins with a call from the forward observers.“The first information they would tell us is their (observer’s) location,” said Collins. “Then he would tell us the actual target’s location, description and how he would like to attack the target.”The FDC would then take the information and determine a range and direction to fire the guns, he said.According to Collins, the FDC is a hectic place to be from the being to the end of a mission.“Even when the guns aren’t shooting we are stilling consistently updating our data so we can provide accurate and timely fire,” he said.Although the Marines use special computers to calculate data, they also still do a lot of the work by hand using trigonometry, algebra and geometry, to ensure the rounds land exactly where it needs to.“It’s really important that all our data matches at all times,” said Cpl. Jeremy Maristany, FDC assistant operations chief.According to Maristany, the weight and speed of the projectile, the trajectory of the howitzer, air density and wind speed all affect where a round lands.The end result of the computed data can be very accurate, said Collins.According to Bock, the FDC Marines with Charlie Battery are close knit and do an outstanding job accomplishing their mission. Collins concurred.“In my seven or so years as an artilleryman I would definitely say that this section is the most proficient in their MOS (military occupational specialty),” said Collins. “They’re well trained, motivated and they have the best personalities to work with.”
13th Marine Expeditionary Unit