Soldiers of B Company "Bushmasters," 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) challenged themselves by overcoming a combined-arms live-fire exercise April 23-27 in the training areas of Fort Drum.
The exercise was set to test the abilities of the unit by ensuring Soldiers are fully capable to operate proficiently on the battlefield.
"You have to start at the baseline to get everyone to see the bigger picture," said Capt. Rocco C. Boccuti, commander of B Company, 2-22 Infantry. "Then you bring in … aviation assets, indirect assets, direct-fire assets and boots on ground."
There are many steps that must be taken before a company conducts a CALFEX to ensure that all Soldiers at all levels are fully confident and capable of performing their jobs as if they were second nature.
"We started going through individual marksmanship qualifications, then we moved into buddy team, fire team live-fires and then into squad and platoon (situational training exercises) and live-fires prior to the CALFEX," Boccuti said.
This is the first time in years that the unit has taken on a CALFEX.
"For us, a lot of things came together at the squad live-fire because it's something squads haven't done for a while, which is knock out a bunker," Boccuti said. "I think that really made some money for us by getting us used to something different."
When the units were ready to tackle their objective, they strapped on their equipment, made final checks and preparations, and were transported to a starting location where they were to navigate on foot to strategic locations to assault their target.
Thickly wooded and swamp-covered areas where they were to navigate to reach their objective points proved a mild challenge to these infantrymen due to persistent training and knowledge of land navigation.
"These Soldiers have been training hard for two months," Boccuti said. "We've experienced every type of weather including snow this week, and it's a good opportunity for all levels to go out there and do this training.
"This is the type of training that Soldiers will hopefully get again, but it may be a while before they take on another CALFEX," he added.
The company started with a day and night dry-run of the exercise where ammunition was not used. After the leadership gave them the "go," on the second and third days, they stepped up using blank rounds and lastly live ammunition for day and night iterations for a total of six times through the training lane.
"They definitely set the standard for success," said Capt. Grayson Ballard, operations officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st BCT. "We've integrated about as many assets as possible to safely integrate and allocate to a company at this level and on this range. Not many other places I know in the Army can do this and not many places, not many units, do it well, but I think we definitely hit the key target."
Bushmasters weren't the only ones involved in the training, as there were many units throughout the 10th Mountain Division, along with aviation assets from 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and from the Vermont National Guard doing their part to assist in whatever the company needed to accomplish their mission.
"Through the week they are constantly integrating aerial assets, both joint and combined-arms, as well as integrating indirect fire and battalion mortar assets," Ballard added.
After every iteration, there was an all-encompassing after-action report, which allowed all to provide detailed information about things they need to improve on and things they need to maintain during future operations.
"There's a lot of room for improvement, and there's a lot that we can take back from this experience. We need to continue to train on the things we need to work on," Boccuti said. "It all comes back to how plan these things and how you rehearse them."