FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- Soldiers of Fury troop, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment each react immediately upon seeing targets pop-up on the live fire range, "500 meters, enemy's in the open!" Live rounds being lodged into the targets sounds through the desert air.
At first glance, this may seem like your usual squad live fire exercise until you look overhead and see the approaching attack helicopter and hear the roaring of tanks. Fury Troop Commander, Capt. John Piccione, explains that "Fury troop is conducting a squad CALFEX, combined arms live fire exercise. The purpose is to qualify the squads and the teams and especially the squad leaders on their ability to conduct fire and maneuver."
A squad level CALFEX allows a squad to employ a variety of assets from across the regiment, creating a more realistic and complex environment. This particular CALFEX occurred Feb. 16-20 and integrated squad live fire, M2A2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle dismount training, 120mm mortar support, medical evacuation and the Sokol helicopter.
Fury Troop Squad Leader, Staff Sgt. Fermin Iturbide, says a CALFEX is the best type of training to get Soldiers ready for combat. "It was great training, especially with the realism of having air support and mortar support. It made the whole training event very real and a great experience for our newest Soldiers."
Soldiers start the lanes by moving in Bradley's. They dismount and move into a squad formation, just as they rehearsed numerous times. The lane then kicks into action when they receive contact from a small outpost of two personnel. The lead team clears the outpost and continues movement to establish a support by fire, allowing the remainder of the squad to move forward.
The squad leader has the ability to incorporate mortars by using a call for fire report to fire mortars on a designated target. Targets are established based on the activity and location of enemy forces. The mortars are used to prevent an enemy from attacking while the squad is trying to continue moving forward through the lane to attack an enemy foothold.
Integrating Sokol into the CALFEX allowed Soldiers to take simulated medical evacuation training one step further than simply making a call. By landing the aircraft, Soldiers could actually run a Soldier up to the helicopter on a gurney and practice using hand and arm signals with the air crew. Troop leadership also used Sokol to get a better view of squads maneuvering through the lanes. "Bringing them out here is great for me as well as the squad leader and the platoon leader to rehearse their air-ground integration and actually see it as the squad is maneuvering on the ground against an enemy objective," says Piccione.
Iterations of squad live fire lanes occurred over the week, beginning with practice runs where the squad simply goes through the motions followed by rehearsing with blanks and finally with live rounds. Squads conducted three runs during the day and night.
"The individual Soldier goes from really a stage where they're just going to validate that they know how to [conduct] maneuver to the point where they're executing it live and they're using all those fundamentals that they've rehearsed during the train-up here and in the train-up leading up to the squad live fire," said Piccione.
Deliberately going step-by-step through the actions begins at the planning phase and continues through preparation and execution of the culminating exercise. Training events like the CALFEX takes months to prepare for. "The CALFEX was on the schedule for a long time. I trained my Soldiers for it, we rehearsed a lot," says Iturbide.
Iturbide further adds that squads are constantly preparing for training like the CALFEX, here. Each month, the 11th ACR helps rotational units prepare for future deployments by acting as an opponent for them in a 14-day training scenario. 11th ACR's mission is to ensure that Army units receive realistic training and are better prepared for real combat. CALFEX training events help units, like Fury Troop, to maintain their skill set as well as their ability to provide realistic training to rotational units.
Fury Troop's CALFEX exercise demonstrates how the Regiment continues to enhance the professionalism and expertise of their Soldiers by conducting realistic training in realistic training environments. This exercise helps to ensure the Regiment can confidently and competently respond to the ever evolving battlefield.