GRAFENWOEHR TRAINING AREA, Germany - Soldiers of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, closed out their final major exercise in Europe with a bang during the Combined Resolve IX live-fire exercise held here Aug. 19-24.
The exercise involved about 2,000 Soldiers from five of the "Iron Brigade's" seven battalions and the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade. The troops enhanced the readiness of U.S. Army Europe's regionally allocated land and aviation forces to deter aggression in Europe while serving in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
"Combined Resolve IX is a brigade-level combined arms live-fire coordination exercise (CALFEX)," said Maj. Michael Harrison, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division operations officer. "It's a culminating event for our readiness progression as well as the deployment. This strengthens our readiness and ability to fight as a brigade."
The brigade synchronized capabilities in a defensive scenario that emphasized speed while maneuvering to dominant battle positions against a conventional adversary.
Tanks and mechanized infantry took up the front-line fight as artillery, combat engineers, close-air support and unmanned aerial reconnaissance shaped conditions before and during the fight.
"This was a chance for us to challenge ourselves and see how we operate, how we fight, and how we function as a brigade-level organization," said Harrison.
Combined Resolve IX was the sixth brigade-level CALFEX for in the last 13 months.
Four of those exercises occurred during the brigade's nine-month Atlantic Resolve rotation, including two opportunities to serve as a multinational task force during USAREUR exercises Combined Resolve VIII at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, and Getica Saber at Cincu, Romania.
"We are very well trained," said Harrison. "When we go back to Fort Carson, Colorado, our level of readiness will be extremely high, especially when we transition back to our own training area."
Sgt. Maj. Joseph Nicholson, the operations sergeant major for 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division said a key for the brigade is carrying forward the knowledge gained during the latest exercise and the cumulative bilateral and multinational training that's occurred with NATO allies and partners since the brigade arrived in Europe in January.
"Our goal moving forward is to maintain our current state of readiness. We need to ensure that everything we have learned here is not lost. It must be captured and continued to be exercised and improved upon," said Nicholson.
During Combined Resolve IX, the brigade emphasized imposing its lethality on an opponent early and often. This included an air assault to move scouts and infantrymen to forward positions and an artillery raid designed to steer the notional enemy onto ground favorable to the Iron Brigade.
"The artillery raid was an interesting thing to do because some Soldiers have never done it for an actual mission. Throughout this entire Atlantic Resolve rotation, we have really emphasized agility and innovative approaches to engaging a near-peer threat, if we ever needed to," said Harrison.
This final validation exercise also allowed USAREUR's rotational armored brigade to team up with its rotational helicopter assets from the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, out of Fort Drum, New York. During the main fight, AH-64 Apache attack helicopters addressed targets overhead as M1A2 tanks from 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, pushed to encounter their own targets.
Additionally, infantrymen from 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, who normally serve in a mechanized role in Bradley Fighting Vehicles, were excited to jump in UH-60 Black Hawk and a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during an air assault with the 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade.
"It's not often that we get to do an air assault mission," said 1st Lt. Brandon Castinado, a platoon leader with Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment. "It's a great experience to see the brigade use all of our assets in various ways to defeat an enemy. This shows that we are capable of completing missions that are thought to be difficult or impossible to achieve. We did it, and we beat the odds. We are adaptable, resilient and most importantly, well-trained."