Virginia National Guard launches new howitzers

FORT PICKETT, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia National Guard soldiers are bringing out the big guns as part of their two weeks of annual training.

On Monday, 10 On Your Side flew across Virginia with the National Guard to see the howitzers in action.

Before you can even brace, the round is gone.

“It definitely gives you a jolt every time, and it never gets old,” said Specialist Jake Todd, from Chesapeake.

Todd is the “number one” man on this howitzer, so he drops the round into the tube and then, “pulls the lever that makes it go boom.”

Each high-explosive round weighs roughly 95 pounds can travel nearly 15 miles.  “To be the first piece of heavy artillery for the Virginia Army National Guard, I think it’s going to help us both with our mission here for the commonwealth and for the nation as a whole,” said Todd.

Battalion Commander Lt. Colonel Jared Lake says the new equipment gives them more digital capabilities that automate the process and improve accuracy and precision.  He said, “They give us the ability to more rapidly deploy the systems and more rapidly deliver fires in support of the brigade.”

It’s a detailed process, but essentially information comes in about a target and the target is confirmed.  That information then comes to the battalion where they determine the exact way the howitzer should be fired.  After that information is sent to the field crew, the howitzer is off.

“I didn’t know I was an adrenaline junkie before I was in field artillery,” said Sergeant Joanne Sears, who lives in Newport News.  “You can feel the boom in the ground and you can feel it in your chest a little bit, and nothing beats that feeling.  It’s amazing.”

These howitzers belong to battalions stationed in Norfolk, Hampton and Hanover and will be stored in armories in those cities. These machines, and the soldiers operating them, are always standing by to help.

“That’s our mission: To serve both here and the state and whether it’s a storm, a blizzard or finding enemies both foreign and domestic,” said Todd.