Guns were blazing as artillery soldiers returned to live-fire field training at the Wide Bay Training Area, near Gympie in Queensland.

Gunners from the 1st Regiment Royal Australian Artillery (1 REGT) spent a week in mid-June on Exercise Barce II, executing numerous fire missions with three M777A1 155mm Howitzers. 

Because of the bushfires and COVID-19, 1 REGT had been unable to train with live ammunition, however, with careful planning and the improving conditions, the gunners were finally able to brush up on their skills.

The regiment implemented a series of procedures to help with the pandemic restrictions. Four batteries were placed on a rotating firing roster to keep crowding to a minimum, sanitising stations were implemented and each J-Bar ammunition rammer was sanitised between missions and only operated by soldiers wearing gloves.

Soldiers appreciated the opportunity to hone skills on their weapon system.

Bombardier Lachlan Toppenberg was enthusiastic to start training after working from home over the past few months. 

“It’s good to get back on the tools,” Bombardier Toppenberg said. 

Despite being apart from his team while working from home, Bombardier Toppenberg said team cohesiveness on a gun line was important. 

“Teamwork is so important on a gun because it’s a crew-served weapon,” Bombardier Toppenberg said. 

“If the team is not working together, the gun’s not going to work.”

Having spent a few days conducting fire missions, Bombardier Toppenberg said his crew’s skills were already looking sharper and the team was happy to be training again. 

“The team really enjoys sending bombs down range and getting effects at the other end,” Bombardier Toppenberg said. 

“It’s definitely my favourite part of the job.”