Talk:Artillery observer

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History of[edit]

The History Channel recently aired a documentary on Forward Observers. Lots of info there.

Speaking of the history of...My article on the Union Army Balloon Corps tells about Prof. Lowe being used to direct arty fire in on an unseen encampment of Rebels at Falls Church VA. The whole caper was the arty commander's idea. Lowe was up in the balloon and would wave signal flags to Camp Advance, the firebase, all the while telegraphing results to headquarters at Fort Corcoran. It was a proud moment for field artillery to be able to fire unseen on the enemy. Lowe was only used to observing the enemy's activity. He was very self-conscious about firing on the camp early morning while the Rebs were asleep. He was relieved when the first shot fell long thereby waking the camp before the arty fire was called in hit after hit.--Magi Media 03:18, 10 November 2006 (UTC)

Intellectual requirements of FOs as opposed to FDC members[edit]

While an good FO has to be quite intelligent, in terms of selectivity, the tested intellectual aptitude requirement for soldiers and marines working in the Fire Direction Center, (FDC), is actually higher - 120 on the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. This is because of the mathematics aptitude required of FDC members. ASVAB score of 120 is also the standard score required for enlisted to be accepted to attend officer candidate school (OCS). SimonATL 01:25, 11 July 2006 (UTC)


the ASVAB only goes up to 99 so I think you should recheck that information. I think you are talking about GT score, in which case the required GT score for FO, FDC, and OCS is all 110. 110 gets you in any MOS in the U.S. Army.

FDC members don't actually do any math their computers do that for them, in terms of reality, the FO will be required to make on the spot corrections resulting from quick mathematical calculations. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Fister12 (talkcontribs) 22:34, 23 May 2008 (UTC)

While FDC operators typically do not make manual calculations, they are still required to know how to do so, and M-16 plotting boards are still issued... just in case. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 199.64.0.252 (talk) 20:33, 2 March 2011 (UTC)

International article[edit]

I've moved this to artillery observer, and made the introductory line more generic, so that this article can cover the various FOs, FOOs, FEDs, and JOSTs of all nations (although the US versions are almost ready to break out into their own more specific articles).

Or should it have been moved to artillery controller? Michael Z. 2006-07-14 22:39 Z


Forward Observer should suffice.

Confusing phrasing[edit]

This sentence, in the context of the article makes no sense, and I'm wondering if anyone can explain it's meaning:

13 Foxtrot/0861 are the only artillery job designators for enlisted soldiers which, due to the missions they may encounter, are authorized to attend .

I am led to assume that the sentence is meant to imply that the 13 Foxtrot/0861 designators for enlisted soldiers are the only ones authorized to attend the afformentioned airborn, pathfinder, and air-assult training schools, but that is not made clear in the article, and I don't want to change it unless that is in fact correct Russianmissile 09:42, 2 January 2007 (UTC)


In fact, this hagiography is 90% horseshit. Yeah, FO is a tough job and you have to have enough common sense to avoid being seen---'cause people will want to kill you for some reason! But it's far from the most intellectually challenging job in the Army or Marine Corps, nor is it the most dangerous.

I state this as a simple fact, as a holder of MOS 13F3H: a professional Field Artillery non-commissioned officer in the US Army who has served both in combat and as an instructor at Fort Sill. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.241.144.28 (talk) 12:21, 11 June 2009 (UTC)

"The most deadly and feared soldiers in battle"?[edit]

The bulk of the "Forward Observers in the US Marine Corps/Army" is dedicated to talking up the role and capabilities of FOs. Rather than reading like an encyclopedia article like it should, this part sounds like someone writing about "how cool" the FOs are without even taking the time to write correctly.

This is a prime example:

"Since FO's are the eyes of the Artillery, they [sic] essentially the most deadly and feared soldiers in battle."

It's fairly safe to say that arms corps soldiers, infantry and armoured, are more dangerous than their supporting elements.

The section also includes a lot of jargon that's difficult even for a soldier to understand and sentences that make no sense whatsoever such as "13 Foxtrot/0861 are the only artillery job designators for enlisted soldiers which, due to the missions they may encounter, are authorized to attend."

The section is subjective, poorly written and full of unverified information. I've added a couple of tags to this effect. --Jwwil 05:00, 7 January 2007 (UTC)


jwwil - that sentenced you quoted is actually correct, it is just poorly worded. FOs control more firepower than any other soldier on the field and thus are the most feared by the enemy. Inversely this fear is why FOs are the highest priority targets in the field.

"It's fairly safe to say that arms corps soldiers, infantry and armoured, are more dangerous than their supporting elements."

You obviously are not in the military. FOs are arm corps soldiers, or combat arms, whatever you want to refer to them as. They are far from a "supporting element" in every sense that phrase can be construed.

You are right, this article was obviously written by a FISTER and to be quite honest in Iraq we circulated it amongst eachother to boost morale because it talks us up so much. I do agree a little more objectivity and regard to the actual nature of a FO, specifically the duties they are meant to perform and perhaps how they operate in the current wars in Iraq/Afghanistan. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Fister12 (talkcontribs) 22:29, 23 May 2008 (UTC)

I'm a member of a FIST, currently serving in 4BCT, 1CD, out of Fort Hood, TX. I served in portions of OIF V, VI, and VII. During those deployments, I operated not only as a FIST'er but also a member of our BN S-2. I have been actively engaged with the collection of information in theatre, as well as analysis of the obtained data. This once again, demonstrates the numerous advantages a FIST'er can give to his unit. Other thoughts I have related to the article itself include this assumed lack of military discipline that FIST'ers have. I will agree to some level that FIST'ers "work hard, party harder", however, this notion that FIST'ers disregard military standards is absolutely false. If the author or anyone else who reads this trusts the information about FIST'ers showing up for duty looking like trash, pay a visit to our unit and find the NCOIC. I have no doubt in my mind that you will leave, surprised. —Preceding unsigned comment added by JRH1982TX (talkcontribs) 17:48, 30 May 2008 (UTC) Fist is often said to be a combat multiplier. They safely bring in arty, mortar, and air support to a manuever unit. And to support the FO as the most feared soldier on the field, look into the marine cpl in desert storm. Two soldiers in an OP, one was injured, with enemy searching for them in the building, coordinated fire and stopped two iraqi armor batts. As for the disregard I kinda agree. but its more like we are the best. its kinda a cocky thing. And I was always trained its okay to break the rules to accomplish the mission. "Remember if you aint cheatin, you aint tryin, and if you get caught, you werent tryin hard enough." —Preceding unsigned comment added by 138.32.32.166 (talk) 10:33, 12 August 2008 (UTC)


"The mission is more important than your sorry ass." Or so a mentor of mine once put it. The FO's job is to apply the terrible power of the Artillery by serving as its eyes. And thus, as someone once put it, to "restore cave dwelling as a viable option for our enemies." —Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.241.144.28 (talk) 12:27, 11 June 2009 (UTC)

This article is centred on the US Army/Marines, and has a very parochial perspective and no history of how the role evolved from the beginning of modern indirect fire. The 'control' argument is mostly nonsense, particulary in the context of the US forces. Unless something has officially changed in the last few years a US observer does not 'control' fire in the proper meaning of that word. All he/she does is apply the fire that has been granted, control of fire sits higher up the food chain and the FO has to request its use, therefore he/she does not control it. This is not the case in many other armies that authorise their FOs to order fire, in other words they really do control it.Nfe (talk) 02:16, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

The nature of "control" versus "request" is a result of the evolution of forward observation in the US and how US forces operate. In the advent of indirect fire, battery commanders would deploy forward and act as both Fire Support Officer and commander. Being as he had the authority to order his unit to fire, the BC would issue a Fire Order to his unit. His Executive Officer was the man on the guns to make it happen. That's why the XO in battery-based US units was referred to as the "Firing Battery Commander" (not to be confused with the BC, who was his boss. Here "firing battery" just refers to the guns and FDC" stripping out support sections.) This went on until after WWII (not exactly sure when) when the current enlisted MOS was created. During WWII, as I understand it, FOs were part of the firing battery, and were not an MOS, but were trained and detailed out on a rotational basis to the maneuver unit. The fact that an FO in the US does not control fires is a recognition by the US that the FO does not own the assets. The folks that own the assets are the ones that are responsible and accountable for the effects of their actions (or inactions) and thus the US DoD has kept the control at the firing unit. Caisson 06 (talk) 15:17, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

RTO[edit]

Can someone explain out what an "RTO" is? It doesn't seem to appear anywhere except as an abbreviation. 136.165.46.150 (talk) 18:27, 16 April 2008 (UTC)

RTO is an acronym for 'radio transmission operator' —Preceding unsigned comment added by Fister12 (talkcontribs) 22:21, 23 May 2008 (UTC)

An RTO is actually 'radio telephone operator' not radio transmission operator it doesnt make since this guy obviously isnt one of the intelligent 13F in this worldParrott.13f (talk) 12:43, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

RTO's aren't, or shouldn't be less intelligent than the FO. This is the case more often than not, however, in many situations, the RTO is simply the subordinate soldier and lacks the needed skills to be an effective FO.

I served as a 13F (FO) some years ago...so my experience might be helpful here. A radio telephone operator (RTO) is actually a function performed by an FO. As a new FO, it may be the only function that they perform...although they may also serve as the FIST driver and gopher. As you gain experience, you are normally attached to an infantry unit and assume all FO responsibilities, of which RTO functions are a small part. Example, I served in the 101st, supporting light infantry. We placed fire support assets at levels ranging from infantry platoon to brigade. A platoon-level FO was on his own...and thus, was not the most junior FO on our team. These FOs were usually E-3s or E-4s. At the infantry company level, we normally had an E-5/E-6 fire support sergeant, a 2LT fire support officer, and a new(-ish) E-1/E-2 FO...who served as the driver, RTO, and gopher for the other two FIST members at that level. As that new FO got more experience, they were assigned/attached to an infantry platoon. We had a similar presence at the infantry battalion and brigade level, but the FIST members were normally more senior at those levels. I served at all levels - company and battalion as a junior FO (as driver, RTO, and gopher) and, as I matured, at the infantry platoon and brigade levels. At platoon, I was the only member of the FIST...and that meant I was the FO, RTO, and, yes, an infantryman. At brigade, I was one of two E-4s assigned to brigade-level fire support...along with a fire support E-7 and Major. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 155.104.37.18 (talk) 22:10, 21 November 2008 (UTC)

Dying MOS[edit]

Hello fellow editors/FISTERs

I think something needs to be added to this article describing the declining use of forward observers on the modern battlefield. The specialty is being replaced by high-end lasing devices such as on the KNIGHT Vehicle[1]. All a servicemember must do is literally 'point and click' and he receives all the target data. While I do not believe that machines should replace FO's on the battlefield due to the massive amount of ordnance controlled, it is a material fact that it is happening. Any thoughts? I will await further discussion to add a section to the article to the effect I described. Aristotle1776 (talk) 00:33, 21 April 2009 (UTC)


There's a lot more to the FO/FIST job than just point-and-click with a designator. Choosing the most effective ordnance system, fuzing, azimuth of approach... Modern radios, GPS and target designators can simplify a lot of the tasks, but effective fire direction still requires a grasp of the delivery systems and the terminal effects of indirect fire systems that are beyond the training of most soldiers. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.241.144.28 (talk) 12:42, 11 June 2009 (UTC)

The effective fire direction procedures you describe are only allocated to senior NCOs and FSOs, to that point you are right, such procedures are beyond the training of most soldiers - including most FOs. For most FO's the job is becoming point and click and relatively simple, the terminal effects of such indirect fire systems are usually considered by the local commander, not the FO/FSNCO/FSO, this is especially true in Iraq. However, I cannot speak for Afghanistan. I am not trying to be argumentative, just playing devil's advocate here. --Aristotle1776 (talk) 18:03, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
Now you have brought up a totally different term (fire direction) that in technical terms is the perview of the firing unit (cannon battery, etc.). At least that's the U.S. term. We usually talk about technical (aiming) and tactical (method of fire: which guns/plts/btrys, how much of what ammo, where, when, etc.) fire direction at Battalion and below, and above that, we used to talk about "fire control" (higher level tactical FD: which units and how much of what ammo) at Fires Brigade and the now-defunct Division Artillery (DivArty).Caisson 06 (talk) 14:49, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

the 13 F is far from dying and in fact is more in need now than ever and requires and even tougher set of skills. I am a SFC in the US Army , I am a 13F4PL75UF9 this mean s I am a JFO, JFC, AFATDS, Certifide 13F paratrooper. I can honestly tell you that the job of the 13F is expanding and getting bigger. The 13F is not only required to provide lethal fires to include (naval gun fire, CCA (Close combat Attack), CAS (Close Air support), Mortars and Arty but is responsible for the gathering of information for the non-lethal role itself. The author above who mentions the KNIGHT shows some major ignorance of what the KNIGHT is. The KNIGHT is nothing more than an advanced version of the Combat Observation Lasing Team Vehicle. This system is designed to accurately and effectively get targeting data, as well as designate for laser guide munitions. The only ones who use this vehicle are the 13F MOS, as it requires a strict knowledge of Joint Fires Doctrine, and understanding of digital technology in order to operate. Your average Joe would know the first thing to do with this system.

The 13F has an extensive skills list that even at the level 2 far surpasses that of other combat arms MOS across the army. We require a young 13F to be able to multitask and think 3 dimensionally. A 13F is capable de-conflicting and controlling 2 A-10s, a Flight of AH-64, Call for Fire with mortars and Arty all at the same time while simultaneously tracking the whereabouts of his fellow soldiers and the locations of other units in the area. This requires the soldier to understand maximum ordinance of his weapon systems and Joint Fires Procedures so all of these assets can effectively strike and attack a target area at the same time without worry of being taken out of the air in what we call “big sky little bullet” theory.

As technology is not dependable a 13F must still certify with nothing but a map, compass and pair of Binos and prove his accuracy with such. What makes an FO so deadly is that his radio is attached to the Field Artillery, which range from 105mm all the way up to Mulitple Rockets System, Marine assets to include 5 inch guns, a variety of Missiles as well as F/A 18s, Harriers and AH-1. He is also capable of talking on CAS aircraft to target which includes all NATO assets, as well control army CCA, they only thing he can’t do is say “Cleared Hot.”

A 13F is required to know the ranges and capabilities of all weapons he may be required to request so that he may properly inform the commander on the best weapons to use. Furthermore he is also required to apply collateral damage methodology as well as understand the effects of all these weapons, to include multiple fuse, Shell and different combinations of each to get desired effects. he must be well verse in FA, ARMY, Multiservice, Joint as well as the TTPs of the other services who provide fires to the soldeir.

He must be able to carry a security clearance because the knowledge he has of these many systems is classified data. The 13F is such and important part of the Army that the Special Forces units now have a requirement in the past few years to have 13F NCOs working with their Groups, as no one not even a JTAC provide the all around expertise that Fire Support Specialist brings to the table.

Many a times in Afghanistan I found myself talking on an F-16 or A-10 in the middle of nowhere in a company size operation and no where around was a JTAC, Just my FSO and FSNCO myself and my platoon, and no one was happier than them to have us there. When your pinned down nothing is cooler than a 8 round per tube fire for effect from a 120mm Mortar while looking into the cockpit of the A-10 you just cleared to engage from your mountain top as he burps that 30MM on a squad of Taliban, then clearing a flight of AH-64 to engage to mop up anything else all with in the same time period, who are penning your brothers down with RPGs and AK-47s. A 13F job is to leave a crater full of body parts for his infantry brother to clear. If you can show me another soldeir capable of doing all of these things at once while firing his rifle along side his PL and his RTO then let me know.

If you want an excellent example of a 13F you have to look no further than SFC Jared C. Monti a 13F FSNCO who received the Medal of Honor for doing his Job just as described above. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jared_C._Monti In a nutshell the writer of this article was pretty much spot on, though he does it with an air of pride and cockiness which in all is typical of a FISTER he has done an excellent job of explaining what I and many like me do with in the confines of what we can talk about as most of what we do is indeed classifide.

Any Infantry guy who has been there when the crud hit the fan; and if it wasn’t for that FISTER he wouldn’t be talking to you right now; would be the first man to kick in the teeth if you talk bad about us. Those of us who have been in battles where fire support was needed understand how nice it is to have 4 JDAMS inbound on a target because some FISTER was on the radio.

Destroyer stand upon a hill, He can’t be stopped he kills at will, Bring bloodshed, death and pain! In the Sun or in the rain. The 13F is rough and ready, King of the Battle..Rock Steady

“The Arty only loves us when we cut their grass and the infantry only love us when we are saving their…”

Artillery spotter?[edit]

I've also heard the term "artillery spotter" used, should we add that term to the top of the page? FstrthnU (talk) 01:47, 19 November 2009 (UTC)

FA test?[edit]

What is that? "FiSTers are highly skilled and usually above average in test scores(minimum FA score of 100 for the U.S. Army)." --AW (talk) 17:29, 3 December 2010 (UTC)

Anybody? --AW (talk) 07:24, 7 December 2010 (UTC)

It is an abreviation for Field Arty hence the reason a FISTER is a 13 Series MOS... —Preceding unsigned comment added by 147.239.4.22 (talk) 18:52, 28 February 2011 (UTC)