By Capt. Angel Tomko, 2nd Brigade Combat Team PAONovember 22, 2017
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Nov. 11, 2017) -- A symphony of fires surrounded Range 44 on Fort Drum the past two weeks as Soldiers of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), conducted their combined arms live-fire exercise, or CALFEX, Nov. 6-16.
The brigade CALFEX brought engineer, artillery, aviation and maneuver units together in an event that was orchestrated to validate a company's ability to conduct an attack and collaborate with other assets on the battlefield. Extensive coordination and synchronization of resources were essential to this complex training exercise, and the timeliness of each event was crucial to the safety of all Soldiers participating.
Day or night, it began with Apache attack helicopters providing over-watch to troops below.
Following the helicopters was the sound of artillery, known as the King of Battle, providing indirect support to the commanders on the ground before the troops assaulting the objective. Soldiers learned how to call for artillery and air support during previous training events, and this scenario was a chance to exercise those skills so they can perform them in real-life if the situation requires it.
"This CALFEX was the full meal deal. With multiple breaches, including … mortars, artillery and rotary-wing close-air support all supporting an infantry attack, I think we brought the term 'combined arms' to a new level," said Lt. Col. Jeremy Gwinn, commander of 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment. "This event really highlighted the versatility of Range 44."
On the ground, Soldiers conducted a mounted movement to a rally point and then a dismounted movement to the actual objective. Along the way, they encountered concertina wire and obstacles, which required breeching with explosives by engineers known as "Sappers." The integration of enablers throughout the exercise is additional training that feeds to the overall readiness of the brigade.
Finally, the company cleared several buildings by using proper clearing techniques. They secured the buildings and pulled security until they received notification of the completion of their mission.
Each company went through both day and night blank-ammunition rehearsal and a day and night live-fire. Each iteration helped the company to refine their skills and build up their proficiency.
"Training on Range 44 went exceptionally well, with all four companies successfully meeting the gates that allowed them to progress through daytime blank and live iterations into execution of the scenario at night with a full complement of enabling artillery and aviation support," said Maj. Benjamin Jackman, brigade training and operations officer.
Companies that participated in the CALFEX lived in the field for the duration of their training. During this time, there was frequent rain, sleet and temperatures that dropped into the low teens.
However, that did not interrupt the Commandos' ability to perform during the training event.
"The companies that went through the Commando CALFEX over the last two weeks did so under ever-worsening weather conditions, but even when it was 35 degrees, raining and zero percent illumination at night, they executed like 10th Mountain Soldiers always have, living up to the history of a division that fights and wins in the heat or cold or snow," Jackman said.
All of the individual training that each company has conducted beginning in the spring of this year culminated in this event. The purpose of this exercise was to train the brigade to be prepared for any operation they are called upon to execute. The lessons learned are invaluable to the organization, as this was the most realistic training they will get together as companies.
The Soldiers will take their experience from this training and continue to build on it, as 2nd BCT is slotted for a rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., in the summer of 2018.