FORT STEWART, Ga. – A combined arms live fire exercise, better known as a CALFEX, is a grueling, vigorous, multi-day event that prepares Soldiers for large-scale combat operations. The “Hound Battalion,” 3rd Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, the Army’s most modern armored battalion, conducted a company-level certification of its tank and Bradley companies during a CALFEX on Sept. 20-23 at Fort Stewart. Soldiers who participated in the CALFEX had to react quickly to mission changes into the scenario throughout the course of the week and still get the mission done.
“The fundamental purpose of the CALFEX is to provide an opportunity for leaders to combine arms in the close fight in a live fire exercise," said Col. Ethan J. Diven, commander of the “Spartan Brigade,” 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. "Leaders are trained and certified prior to firing day and night iterations, then expertly coached through the culminating training event. The end result is Soldiers who are confident in their craft, lethal in their weapon systems, and a cohesive live fire certified unit. We all joined to the Army to be challenged, and we should have a bit of fun while we’re at it.”
Throughout the week, Soldiers conducted maneuver operations with tactical scenarios, testing their ability to adapt to different conditions and simulating real world conditions. Each company had to execute a dry and blank iteration in preparation for the live iteration, so each crew had ample practice before conducting the most dangerous iteration.
“[The CALFEX] allows us to take a company-sized element with some enablers and take them down multiple ranges in a live-fire environment to certify their lethality and ability to conduct large-scale combat operations,” said Lt. Col. Daniel G. Hodermarsky, commander of the 3rd Bn., 67th AR, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID.
While maneuver Soldiers view the CALFEX as an opportunity to showcase their capabilities and lethality, combat support Soldiers also qualify in different aspects of the exercise.
“We have our battalion medical platoon here in support,” said Hodermarsky. “Their job is to help us replicate casualty evacuation and combat casualty care. They are also here as a safety in the event someone were to experience a real-world injury of any sort here on the range.”
This exercise is not only used as an opportunity for Soldiers to demonstrate lethality and qualify in their craft, but to also take information away from this week to help further develop their Soldier concept.
“This is a great opportunity for our company-grade leaders to interact with all of the enablers that the brigade brings to bear in combat,” said Hodermarsky. “We give them a tactical problem to solve that allows them to certify under all live-fire conditions. This shows them how to be a part of a team of teams. They get to work together as small, cohesive teams to form a greater whole as a company and execute missions in real time.”
After the conclusion of each exercise during the week, Soldiers were given an after-action review on what they encountered during the mission. There are always areas that can be improved upon.
The primary audience for the training were the modernized M2A4 Bradley Fighting Vehicle and M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tank crews. Junior enlisted Soldiers were given the opportunity to train on their modernized vehicles, and they received coaching and feedback on their efforts during the exercise.
“It helps us learn the equipment more than we already know about it,” said Pfc. Ian Duffy, an infantryman assigned to the 3rd Bn., 67th AR, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID. “We are still learning around the edges. There are still some hiccups with the equipment, but the more training we get on the equipment, the better we will get with solving those problems.”
At the conclusion of CALFEX, Soldiers were given the opportunity to show their day-to-day job to their Families during a Family Day demonstration. The modernized M2A4 Bradley Fighting Vehicle and M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tank both fired at the demo, showcasing the brigade, division and Army’s modernization effort.
"Family Day was a time to say thank you to all the Families for supporting their Soldier while the Hounds trained all summer long to become the most modern lethal combined arms battalion in the Army," said Command Sgt. Maj. Rocky T. Kunkel, senior enlisted advisor for the 3rd Bn., 67th AR, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID. "It was a great turnout. Families got a glimpse into what their Soldier did all summer long."
Over 100 Family members and friends came out to the Family Day demonstration, wrapping up a week of arduous training on the Army's most modern equipment.