FORT BLISS, Texas — Two self-propelled M109 Paladin howitzers sat idly by on the 1st Armored Division’s desert training grounds, waiting to hurl 155mm shells about 10 miles away.
Partaking in a large exercise called Bulldog Focus, the two Paladins were waiting for other convoys miles away to get in position before they could safely fire.
“These guns are designed to kill,” Captain Alan Bauerly, who oversaw a few batteries, had said to his troops before they dispersed and waited to fire. “It doesn’t care who it kills.”
But before the artillerymen displayed the cannon’s incredible power, I got a chance to tour the Paladin and speak to the troops operating it.
Here’s what I saw:
I first came upon the five-man crew of this M992A2 Field Artillery Ammunition Supply Vehicle, which was stationed behind the Paladins.
As the vehicle’s name denotes, it supplies the Paladins with ammunition.
Mounted atop the ammunition supply vehicle is an MK19 automatic grenade launcher.
The crew showed me how they carry the 155mm projectiles, which weigh over 100 pounds. Some artillerymen said they carry it over their shoulders too.
The soldiers then challenged me to pick one up and, sensing a test, I couldn’t back down.