Training milestone solidifies Kuwait-U.S. partnership
May 17, 2012
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwiat (May 17, 2012) -- United States Army and Kuwaiti Army Soldiers have hardened their ongoing partnership with fire -- live fire, that is.
In a Combined-Arms Live-Fire Exercise, known as a CALFX, at the Udari Range May 8, units of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division (Iron Horse) and the Kuwaiti Army's 151st Tank Battalion, 15th Mubarak Armored Brigade successfully performed a series of maneuvers to stop a simulated invasion force, validating months of training which began soon after the brigade withdrew from Iraq to Kuwait.
"It proved our ability to partner and work with the Kuwaiti military," said Maj. Eric Melloh, operations officer for the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 8th Cavalry. "We're able to shoot, move and communicate together. You can't fight if you can't do all three of those things."
This partnership increases the strategic reach of the United States, stressed Melloh, who is from Huntsville, Texas.
In addition to the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion and the 151st Tank Battalion, the exercise involved the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery of the 1st Brigade, the brigade headquarters, and the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade. The troops were tasked with engaging targets representing an invading enemy armored force.
A safe distance away, a group of observers from the United States military and Kuwaiti military saw, and heard, the capabilities Melloh described.
The 2nd Battalion's scout platoon screened friendly forces and engaged targets with the 25mm cannons on their M3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles. They also called for indirect fire from the 2nd Battalion's mortar platoon and the artillery Soldiers, who slammed the targets with high-explosive rounds and provided smoke to cover the scouts' withdrawal south, toward their tactical assembly area.
That coordination requires trust, said Sgt. 1st Class Taylor Donohoe, the 2nd Battalion's mortar platoon sergeant. The scouts have to trust that they're going to get the fire missions they want when they want, he explained.
"We have to incorporate our shooting with their movement so we're shooting safely," said Donohoe, of Chilton, Texas. The smoke has to be at the right attitude and have the correct density so "the scouts can move out and the tanks can move in," he added.
The American M1A2 Abrams tanks and Kuwaiti M84 tank did just that, churning up the sand as they roared across the desert to swing into position and engage the targets. The boom of the tanks' main guns echoed across the dunes and dust and black smoke drifted in the wind as the Kuwaiti and American troops bested the scenario, hitting targets representing a reconnaissance element of eight Boyevaya Mashina Pekhoty armored vehicles, known as BMPs, and a main force of more than a dozen T72, T55 and T54 tanks.
The observers broke into applause as the exercise ended.
"Everybody shot good," said Sgt. 1st Class Eddie Jones, the 2nd Battalion's master gunner, adding that they've been cross-training with the Kuwaitis since January.
Jones recalled training with the Kuwaitis during two joint exercises here in the 90s. The Kuwaiti Soldiers couldn't have conducted a live-fire exercise like this back then, he said.
"You can see the difference from then to now," he said. "Now they're out front, leading. They want to show that they learned from us."
The good communication in the live-fire exercise was due to the support of United States Army linguists and the Kuwaiti leaders' strong command of the English language, Melloh said.
"Most of it was talking back and forth in English," he said of the communications during the exercise.
The exercise was also a big step for the brigade, which had been conducting full-spectrum operations in Iraq last year, ac-cording to 2nd Battalion Operations Sgt. Major Richard Burns, of Belton, Texas.
"We shifted our focus to a partnership with the Kuwaiti government," he said.
That shift involved a return to training, Burns said. Starting with tasks like individual marksmanship, the troops re-honed their soldier skills, working their way up to things like squad and platoon live-fire exercises, he explained.
"It was a lot of planning, but the Soldiers rolled right into the role," Burns said. "Now we're truly the best-trained unit the United States Army has to offer."
The planning and training, which paid off in the successful CALFX, set conditions for the units relieving them in the coming months, Burns said.
"We set the wheels in motion for this great partnership," he said.
The implications are more far-reaching, Melloh said.
"It's all about inter-operability between nations in the middle east," he said. "This is just one of the ways forward."