By Sam Campbell (Leonard Wood)June 20, 2019
As part of an ongoing Army-wide strategic shift in operations from counter-insurgency toward large-scale combat, the Missouri National Guard's 110th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade held a Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise June 10 at Fort Leonard Wood's Training Area 246.
While simultaneously supporting its state missions, the 110th MEB shifted to a near-peer threat scenario.
"They were working some flood issues here," said Gregg Thompson, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence deputy to the commanding general. "It really demonstrates the quality of the staff and the leadership to be able to respond to a real-world state response mission and still execute a CALFEX-level training event."
Combined Arms Live Fire Exercises (CALFEX) integrate multiple types of combat and support units to achieve a desired battle damage outcome against an enemy at the right time and place. The exercise held at Fort Leonard Wood saw participation from Army National Guard, active duty Air Force and Air Force Reserve units.
The Arkansas National Guard's 239th Brigade Engineer Battalion provided unmanned aircraft systems support for aerial reconnaissance, allowing A10 Warthogs from the 442nd Fighter Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to deliver munitions and rounds at Cannon Range.
Joint Tactical Air Control 818th Operations Support Squadron from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, assisted in the training event's coordination.
Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Sadler, 442nd Operations Support Flight, range operations officer, said the exercise's integration with actual drones, as opposed to theoretical ones, provided valuable lessons for A10 pilots.
"We always put (the drones) in the scenarios, but they're always notional," he said. "Today, we put an actual one up there. We had some lessons learned today about communications.'"
According to Capt. Travis Boyd, MEB integrator, this is the first CALFEX where a MEB has participated.
Brigade combat teams, or BCT, which can operate as part of a division or independently, have been utilized as the primary deployable unit of maneuver in the Army's counter-insurgency, or COIN, conflicts for the past 15 years.
Those conflicts were mostly fixed and undeviating, Thompson said. He explained the necessity of putting the MEB in a more principal role as the Army shifts focus.
"What's different is conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were very static. We were in bases, and we were running small unit combat operations out of fixed sites in a COIN mission," he said. "What the Army is looking at now is near-peer competitors, corps-level maneuver operations at the continental scale."
Maneuver Enhancement Brigades are better suited to that vision, Thompson said.
"The MEB is an organization that the Army has designed to be able to do combat-like operations in the rear area of divisions and corps, primarily," he said. "We want our combat units to be forward."
MEBs were originally designed during the Cold War era as a means of fighting a near-peer competitor, MEB Integrator Tommy Simmons said. They held the rear, which allowed brigade combat teams to move forward for large-scale, combat operations, he said.
"In the Army, you've got four organizations that can be assigned an area by a division or a corps," Simmons said. "The MEB is the only non-(brigade combat team) formation that has that mission to be assigned an area of operations (and can) employ (Joint Tactical Air Control) or others (to) bring in fixed-wing aircraft, combat aviation support."
Thompson emphasized the significance the CALFEX had on displaying the MEB's potential.
"So instead of having a BCT stay back to cover all that space and secure it, you have a MEB now that can control fires and do all (those) CALFEX(-like operations)," Thompson said. "It's a demonstration that (a MEB) can take on and deliver the same capability that a BCT (has) right now in a different kind of headquarters."
MSCoE is the doctrine writer and organizational designer for MEBs. It determines what MEBs do and how one is equipped.
The exercise demonstrated that "(Fort Leonard Wood) can support any kind of range or training area," Thompson said.
"We have had six MEBs come here and do annual training," he said. "Normally, they're in a digital training environment, doing this type of exercise. This one, they're actually on the dirt now executing what they've been training for."