US Army Europe aviation, infantry brigades conduct live-fire to prepare aviators for deployment
March 31, 2014
GRAFENWOEHR TRAINING AREA, Germany -- Soldiers and aircraft from U.S. Army Europe's 12th Combat Aviation Brigade partnered with their infantry colleagues from the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) and U.S. Air Force fighters for a Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercise here March 28 to help prepare the 12th for deployment.
The training brought organized mayhem to Range 301 here, as the sky overhead filled with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters, U.S. Air Force F-16 fighters and the sounds of several different weapons systems.
The CALFEX was part of a larger Mission Rehearsal Exercise designed to help prepare the "Griffin" brigade for its upcoming deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom by simulating the environment and events the aviators are likely to encounter while deployed, as well as help the other units that participated to develop their combat skills.
"This was great training, with great opportunities and a multitude of very complex operations that were well managed and executed," said Lt. Col. Kelsey A. Smith, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 159th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 12th CAB. "We threw a few mix ups in-between, just to cause friction enough to make it valuable training."
Several USAREUR organizations and the U.S. Air Forces in Europe added ingredients to the CALFEX that brought even more realism to the exercise.
"We had elements from several different units throughout USAREUR, from infantry to artillery, mortars and military intelligence, as well as F-16s from Aviano, Italy," said Maj. Beau G. Rollie, the 2-159th operations officer. "We had all these elements working in combination, firing to keep the enemy's head down so our force could take the two objectives that we had planned."
"Because our folks are preparing to go to Afghanistan, this was great training for them," said Rollie. "The exercise went great, with lots of ammunition fired and lots of notional enemies destroyed."
The 12th's predeployment training over the past month has spanned the whole of USAREUR's Joint Multinational Training Command, from the ground and skies here to JMTC's Joint Multinational Readiness Center in nearby Hohenfels.
Some of the younger and newer Apache pilots and gunners said the training gave them their first real chance to train in an exercise that required them to communicate with many different personnel on the ground before sending rounds downrange.
"It's always fun to fire live ammunition," said1st Lt. Kevin R. Lown, executive officer for 2-159th's B Company. "With a lot of the training that we do, we don't have the opportunity to talk to ground units. So this was very helpful for myself as a 'front-seater' (pilot), to be able to talk to that person on the ground -- whether an infantry commander or a Joint Terminal Attack Controller -- on the ground actually clearing your firing lane (before) coming in and unleashing our rounds on target."
The CALFEX compelled 12th CAB Soldiers and pilots to pass through some of the same phases they will experience during their deployment, a progression from learning to work with their higher headquarters in Afghanistan, to working with and training Afghan forces, to undertaking combined missions, to the eventual transfer of responsibility for their mission to Afghan forces.
The CALFEX also gave the Soldiers and leaders of the 173rd an opportunity to gain realistic experience in synchronizing its efforts on the ground with partner units.
"From a (U.S. European Command) perspective, we showcased the capability and brought it together to synchronize this operation and 'deconflict' both fires in terms of direct mode and indirect modes," said Lt. Col. Patrick Wilkins, commander of the brigade's1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment. "There were weeks of planning that went on for this exercise, and although it was pretty fun to execute, it was exacting in terms of our preparation in terms of safety and realism, and combines the two into live-fire art."
This is exactly what the 173rd would do in a full-spectrum fight, the colonel said.
"Obviously we will apply force where necessary, and only use a proportional amount of force as necessary, said Wilkins. "This [event] showcases what capability I, as a ground force commander can bring to bear. Today we showcased that."
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