In the Best Mortar Competition, 30 four-person teams representing their units, compete on their ability to perform a variety of mortar crew tasks of the kind they’d need to use in combat. Those include, among others, firing accurately, responding properly to requests for mortar fire, and moving efficiently as a team across a battlefield setting.
This year its first event starts April 15, a Wednesday.
Competitors will take the Army Combat Fitness Test, the Army’s new physical fitness test that will become the official test-of-record for all Soldiers starting this fall. The test is designed to measure fitness based on the strength, stamina, and other physical qualities they’d need in combat.
Also that day, the mortar teams will compete in firing the 60 mm mortar in two situations where in combat they’d have to act quickly and improvise a hasty attack on an enemy target.
In one, using the “hand-held,” method, they’d aim a 60 mm mortar by holding the tube with two hands, and firing it using its trigger mechanism. In the other, called the “direct alignment” method, they’d use the field expedient of an aiming stake to help gauge the best way to position the mortar so its rounds will strike the target.
“Both methods are definitely kind of hasty, reacting-to-contact type of tools,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Herrera, an instructor with Mortar Training Company, 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, part of the 198th Infantry Brigade.
That’ll be followed by tests on tasks mortar teams have to perform in combat. That part of the day will include a gunner’s exam, as well as a test of their ability to handle the physical demands of mortar crew operations, and a test of their skill with a tool called an aiming circle to properly aim their mortars.
In addition, they’ll take a written exam on use a piece of the LHMBC, a light-weight, handheld computer used to plot direction and other measurements needed to accurately carry out a mortar fire mission.
Next will be a test of their skill firing the 120 mm mortar, followed by a ruck march of a distance that the competitors will not be told of beforehand. That approximates another stressful reality of combat: the need to press on without necessarily knowing when the strain and pressure might let up.
Ending the first day of the Best Mortar Competition is a night occupation exercise, in which the teams must show their ability to properly move onto a piece of ground and set up security and take other measures so they can occupy that position overnight and fire mortars from it if necessary.
April 16 is Day 2 of the Best Mortar Competition and starts with competitors having to test their skills on an obstacle course and on a course designed to build team spirit and confidence. That’ll be followed by a marksmanship event in which they’ll use the M4 rifle and M17 service pistol to fire at targets.
Other events scheduled are a test of the ability to use hand grenades, and a “CCC” written exam on the characteristics, capabilities and components of mortars. Typically, questions cover such details as the weight of specific mortar components, or the distance from which the different mortar types can reach their targets.
Competitors will then face another obstacle course, this one mimicking conditions they’d encounter in an urban setting.
Day 2 ends with a night land navigation exercise, in which the crews must make their way across a tract of terrain using map and compass and other navigational techniques.
The final day of the Best Mortar Competition is April 17. It starts with a test of crews’ ability to fire mortars using the “hip shoot” and “direct lay” methods. Both methods are used when a mortar crew is on the move and must suddenly stop, set up, and respond to a call for fire.
In the “hip shoot,” the crew must quickly set up the mortar, use a compass to ensure it’s properly aimed, then provide the needed fire.
Using the “direct lay” method, they are able to see the target and use the mortar’s sight to aim their fire.
The Best Mortar Competition’s awards ceremony will be held April 17.