Eyes of the artillery battery in Afghanistan

Virginia National Guard pays off for Tyler Moyer ('08)
By Sara Riddle ('10)

Tyler Moyer and comrades pass the time with a game of Monopoly.

Tyler Moyer ('08) (second from right) and comrades pass the time with a game of Monopoly.

1st Lt. Tyler Moyer ('08) grew up in Washington State with a family full of mostly businessmen and businesswomen. He never dreamed he would one day join the Army. After completing his high school education at Fishburne Military High School, an all-male military boarding school in Waynesboro, Va., Moyer needed to find a way to pay for college. Doing well in a military setting, he found it fitting to join the Virginia National Guard. It was through the National Guard that Moyer found his passion for the military. During his five years at JMU, Moyer served in the Virginia National Guard and eventually commissioned as an active duty officer in the Army.

Training and deployment

Moyer graduated from JMU in spring 2008. On Aug. 3, 2008, he reported to Fort Sill, Okla., for the Officer Basic Course, a mandatory seven-week course for all officers. Following OBC, he attended Field Artillery School at Fort Sill and graduated the math intensive course on Feb. 9, 2009.

Moyer, who was deployed in February 2009 after his training, served a 12-month deployment in Afghanistan under the Baker Company 3-509th Airborne 25th Infantry Division. He returned home this February.

Small tasks, big contributions

"I was tasked with many small jobs other than the job that I was trained for," says Moyer. He worked in close liaison with all nine interpreters assigned at his base and handled all the humanitarian aid supplies. Also serving as platoon leader, Moyer was tasked with tons of paperwork, but more importantly, he served as the company's fire support officer.

As fire support officer, Moyer represented his company for all indirect support including airplanes, attack helicopters, mortar fire, artillery fire and Navy gunfire. "Prior to going on missions, it was my job to evaluate the route and ensure our indirect support (mortar and artillery) laid in our direction so we could get responsive fire," says Moyer. "If our element were to get ambushed or attacked, my forward observer or myself would call on the radio for a fire mission, which would include sending our current location, enemy location and other essential information."

Tyler Moyer and his forward observers.

Tyler Moyer ('08) (center) and his forward observers on their way back to base in Afghanistan.

Moyer compares his duties to those in the movie We Were Soldiers, in which you see a soldier get on the radio and call for indirect support that is being fired from up to several miles away.

The real deal

Moyer has found that there is a "huge difference between the Army schoolhouse rules and real combat rules." The first time Moyer was in a fire fight, about two months into deployment, a rocket propelled grenade was shot at his vehicle, fortunately missing it by a couple of meters. Machine gun fire was being shot both ways as Moyer had to jump out of the vehicle and find good cover to return fire. Moyer and the noncommissioned officer guide shot 19 rounds of high explosive rounds into the hilltops from where they were taking fire.

Moyer describes this experience as one of the most exciting days in Afghanistan. "I was able to do the job I was trained for, and I was able to make corrections to the rounds by looking around the vehicle so we could better place where the rounds were landing."

Future deployments

Although his current duty station is in Ft. Richardson, Ala., Moyer hopes to be transferred to Korea in the future. His reasoning for changing his station, surprisingly, has nothing to do with the military. "I was adopted when I was younger. During my 15-day block leave from Afghanistan, I traveled to Korea to meet my birth father and the Korean family that I never knew about," he says.

Moyer hopes to be able to stay in the military and learn about his past at the same time. "Family should be, and is, my No. 1 priority," he says.

Tyler Moyer ('08) was one of many U.S. troops working to secure the election process in Afghanistan. In this communication to his family and friends, he offers a firsthand account of the experience.