This article was originally written by Kevin Wilson for The Havok Journal. The opinions expressed are his own.
There are many military occupational specialties that could make the argument that they've been underutilized in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One could argue, for instance, that there hasn't been much need for ADA since the initial invasions, since our enemies in both countries are, for all practical intents and purposes, little more than exceptionally lethal cavemen.
They might be hell on wheels for making bombs and guerrilla warfare, but they don't fly without a little bit of help, usually in the form of the high explosive warhead.
The same argument could be applied to our fighter pilots, for much the same reason. If the enemy has no fighters of their own, then they're little more than glorified close air support. Sure, they get to stay on nice bases and have shirtless volleyball games, but that's a poor substitute for life in the danger zone.
However, there is one very particular specialty who, I would argue, has the bluest balls of them all, and that's the crews of the Army and Marine Corps's MLRS and HIMARS launchers.
A US Marine with Fox Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, directs the loading of 227mm rockets into the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System during training. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Morrow.
The MLRS, or Multiple Launch Rocket System, is the single most badass artillery piece in the US arsenal, and possibly the world. Its little brother, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, is a very close second. Nicknamed "Steel Rain," the MLRS and HIMARS represent a quantum leap in ground-to-ground destructive capability, above and beyond anything the world has seen before and since. Sure, cannon artillery might have its place on the battlefield, but that place isn't wiping out grid squares with a single fire mission.
And yet, for all their awesome destructive power, they've seen very limited use over the last decade and a half. This is a phenomenon I've witnessed firsthand. My unit, a HIMARS battery in the North Carolina Army National Guard, has deployed multiple times since the start of the Iraq war, and we've yet to fire a single rocket in anger. We spent the better part of a year staring at the Sinai desert, but no shooting rockets.
It's to the point where the 13Ms, the MLRS and HIMARS crewmembers, were nicknamed 13 Miscellaneous. If there was a job that needed bodies, chances are, they'd get sent to do it, because the chances of them doing the jobs they were trained for were less than nil.
Firing a M142 HIMARS. Photo by Sgt. Toby Cook.
Why, you ask? One could argue that the rockets were overkill, or that they were too expensive. Me, I've got another theory.
See, there's this little country in Asia, you might have heard of it. You know, the one run by a fat little kid who keeps saber rattling? Starts with an N, ends with -orth Korea? Yeah, that one.
It's no secret that the Hermit Kingdom is ratcheting up tensions in a big way. Tensions are as high as they've ever been, and if the manure hits the air circulator for real, it's going to be the single greatest conventional conflict of the new millennium. Leaving aside the issue of whether or not their nukes are worth a damn, we can count on a vast wave of troops rolling over the DMZ and riding like hell for Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
And what stands in their way?
Well, aside from a whole lot of angry South Koreans, the US has a substantial troop presence over there, and with them, a whole lot of artillery. And the biggest and baddest of them are Steel Rain.
A US Marine with Fox Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, guides the rotation of a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System after training on Range G-5, Camp Lejeune, N.C. Photo by Cpl. Judith Harter
Stopping that initial onslaught is going to be a lot like stopping an avalanche with fire-hoses: doable, but you're gonna need one hell of a hose, and an awful lot of water. And brother, it's hard to find a bigger fire-hose than the Multiple Launch Rocket System.
Now, I'm not saying I'm in favor of war in the Korean Peninsula. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's a terrible idea, but I'm also pretty sure we don't have much of a choice in the matter. If it happens, it happens.
If North Korea steps over the line, however, I'm kinda hoping they do it in a big way, on behalf of all the 13M and 13P out there. Because, you know, it's been a while, and we have needs that just haven't been taken care of.