Ministry of defence Republic of Serbia

The best Army unit

Every year, the best unit at the level of battalion – squad is selected in the Army, and the transitional flag for 2015 was recently awarded to the First M-84 152 mm gun-howitzer artillery battalion. In the explanation of the prestigious award it says that the selection of the battalion is a reward for the invested effort, commitment and professional execution of tasks in building and maintenance of operational capabilities in the last year, but it is clear that behind it there is a multi-year continuous and devoted work of Nis artillery men.

- Shades were deciding. I think that the high level of skills of the members of the battalion achieved through the realization of various forms of training were decisive. I wish to point out winter stationary camping, mobile camping in the middle of the year, execution of a large number of tactical practices and tactical exercises on camping and artillery live fire exercises at the "Pasuljanske livade" joint-service training ground where it was evaluated with excellent and some very good grades. The second value is the one hundred percent accuracy of artillery guns and a high level of serviceability of motor vehicles and other technical equipment. The fact that confirms the quality of work in the battalion is, certainly, the average efficiency record of officers, NCOs and soldiers, which exceeds a very good rating, while professional relations and high morale are something that is noticed immediately upon arrival to our unit – commander of the Combined Artillery Brigade Colonel Zvonko Stojkovic points out.

Fire jump
Members of the Combined Artillery Brigade play a key role in carrying out the tasks of the artillery fire support to Army units throughout the country, while the First M-84 152 mm gun-howitzer artillery battalion is responsible for the most important tasks in the brigade. The aforementioned fact clearly indicates the role and importance of the battalion in that unit, especially in the part of training for the artillery squad leaders, operators, scouts, control post operators and other specialties in artillery branch.

- The essence of the qualification of the battalion members and the results we have achieved is in the continuous work. We are the first artillery unit that conducts the computer assisted exercises, performs mobile campings every year and we have the continuity of the training process, which allows as current engagement - Major Zoran Nikolic, Battalion Commander says.

Commanding officers and soldiers of the First M-84 152 mm gun-howitzer artillery battalion showed and proved their training level last year, mainly in the field and in live fire exercises. They started at the end of the last winter with battery stationary camping at the training ground "Rujnicka kosa", when officers and soldiers practiced how to conduct artillery fire in adverse weather and soil conditions. In the midsummer time, one battery was engaged in the South Base, while the second, in November last year, served in the basic command staff course at the Military Academy, at the "Pasuljanske livade" training ground.

The central activity of the battalion, however, was recorded in the period from 26 May to 4 June, when members of the unit performed mobile camping and tactical live firing exercise with "Fire Jump". The ten-day mobile camping took place on the route parent barracks "Mija Stanimirović" - Rtanj - "Pasuljanske livade" training area, where the artillerymen practiced assuming elements of combat disposition, emplacement, operation according to shooting orders, moving from one position to the other and other tactical operations.

On the "Pasuljanske livade" training ground eight artillery exercise and control battery firings from gun-howitzers were performed with excellent and very good records. Especially attractive was the night shooting, when the 120 mm mortar squad illuminated the target area on Veliki Antrvelj. It showed once again that the field exercises are among the most complex and difficult forms of training of the battalion level units, but also the only reliable way to determine the extent to which unit commanders, squad, platoon and battery leaders, operators, control post operators, communication personnel, topographers and members of other specialties are ready to carry out the tasks of effective fire support to combat units.

Exercise "Fire Jump" and the battalion live firing exercises have confirmed that there are no secrets in the planning, preparation and execution of artillery fire support for officers and soldiers of the First 152 mm gun-howitzer artillery battalion during the combat support and that they are fully trained to implement the assigned missions in all weather, land and combat conditions.

Full serviceability of the technical equipment in this battalion was achieved thanks to the assistance of the superior command of the Army and the Serbian Armed Forces General Staff. Attention was paid to the smallest details in maintaining and improving the safety of not only the artillery guns, but also motor vehicles and other technical equipment. In the battalion, great attention is paid to periodical inspections.

Major Zoran Nikolic hopes that the unit will one day be equipped with new NORA B52 155 mm self-propelled howitzer, which is conceptually and structurally similar to their howitzers. This would significantly increase the operational capability and artillery unit as a whole.

Training standards
In the organizational structure of the First M84 152 mm gun-howitzer artillery battalion there can be noticed the command, command reconnaissance battery and three firing batteries. While members of the battalion command exercise command, give orders, make decisions, conduct control, plan, organize and coordinate, the members of the command reconnaissance battery are the eyes and ears of artillery. The unit commanded by Major Zoran Orescanin has in its composition communications platoon and command reconnaissance platoon who observe, reconnoitre and provides the necessary elements for the battalion firings. Fire batteries are led by Major Dejan Pavlovic and Captains Goran Rangelov and Predrag Radunovic.

From the commander of the 3rd gun-howitzer artillery battery Major Dejan Pavlovic we learned that good results in exercises and shooting are the fruit of strong military collective, good training, practice and the ability to react promptly, accurately, precisely, quickly and efficiently.

- Good operators know what to do at any time. There are standards for individual and collective training which must be met and therefore we rehearse any action to automatism, but at the same time great attention is paid to security measures, the selection of units for the field and the realization of the shooting – Major Pavlovic says.

He said that the members of his unit have full confidence in NORA gun-howitzer and that battery can use this artillery gun to accurately cover the space up to 300 meters wide.

Gun-howitzer is operated by a crew of ten men, so the job of a squad leader is complex because it takes coordination of the work of all of them. Sergeant Nemanja Milovanovic states that each member has a specific task and the overall result of the exercises and shooting depends on the proper and timely execution of actions. A gunner, for example, prepares elements for shooting and sights, the assistant gunner sets instruments for work, opens the shutter and takes care of its serviceability, while the loader makes sure that there is no dirt or residual parts of cartridge cases in the barrel and loads a missile. Timer operator and three loaders are part of the ammunition section of the squad, and are preparing ammunition.

Soldiers within the squad can advance in their carrier from duty of ammo bearer to gunner, who is also the deputy squad leader. Only the best ones manage to cross that path in two years, while at normal pace of advancement one can become a gunner only after 5-6 years. This information becomes significant when it is known that only the soldiers from among the gunners are selected to complete the necessary courses to become artillery non-commissioned officers. Battalion has thus promoted 17 young sergeants from its composition, who have already received the duty.

- Promoting non-commissioned officers from the ranks of professional soldiers is in my opinion a perfect solution, because those who advance and are promoted to NCOs are tested and proven in the unit where they will perform their new duties. They are highly motivated and work in military collectives and with people they know – Major Zoran Nikolic emphasizes.

Sergeant Nikola Stojiljkovic is one of professional soldiers who passed the way from the third ammo bearer to an NCO. He says that from the first day he was maximally interested in the job and that it was recognized by his elders. He proudly emphasizes that the artillery is the branch that would not trade it for anything in the world and that live shooting should be seen and experienced.

Nicola's colleague Sergeant Vidoje Djokic has been in artillery brigade for six years, he entered into all the secrets of the artillery trade, and last year he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and appointed as squad leader. The gunner Corporal Milan Stojanovic also wishes to take the path of his former colleagues and become an artillery non-commissioned officer. This possibility for professional soldiers to become NCOs aroused the competitive spirit in the unit and everyone is trying hard to better perform their tasks.

Gun-howitzer battalion commander Major Zoran Nikolic underlines that performing the tasks of an artillery unit depends on a large number of officers and soldiers of various specialties. In the artillery, as he says, the teamwork, camaraderie and mutual trust is basis on which not only a cohesion of military collectives is build, but also the realization of the most complex tactical and fire tasks.