CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq - A thunderous boom is heard from miles away. Seconds later the explosive impact slams into the side of a nearby hill, as the Paladin hits its mark from miles away. The impact triggers over a dozen Iraqi Army 50-cal. mounted trucks into action, and they converged on the Paladin's target, all while the target is flanked by U.S. Army Kiowa Warrior helicopters.

The scene is what one would expect from a blockbuster movie production; however, for the Soldiers involved it was a rare opportunity to participate in a Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise held in Ninewa province, in northern Iraq, July 24.

The CALFEX was one of a handful ever conducted in Iraq, and it allowed U.S. Soldiers from Contingency Operating Site Marez to work alongside the Iraqi Army soldiers, not as trainers but as equals, to converge and eliminate a target, said Capt. Jamar White, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and coordinator for the exercise.

"The whole exercise is something that is a rare opportunity for not only the Iraqi Army soldiers but for U.S. Soldiers as well," said Capt. White.

The exercise took three months to plan and execute, and required the combined efforts of the 2nd HBCT; 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 2nd Stryker Advise and Assist Brigade, 25th Infantry Division; and 2-12th Iraqi Army, Capt. White said.

"The exercise consisted of having long range artillery provided by 1/9 FA, followed by air support by 2/25 [SAAB] with the Kiowa Warrior helicopters and ground troops from 2-12 IA, all attack and converge on a single target," said Capt. White. "When we approached each unit on the idea of the CALFEX everyone was excited to have this opportunity."

"None were more excited than the Iraqi Army Soldiers," Capt. White said.

Staff Brigadier General Mahdi Abdul Aziz Hamid said the exercise was a great opportunity for his soldiers.

"The chance for all of us to work together and work with field artillery and air has been a great experience," Staff Brig. Gen. Hamid said.

Staff Brigadier General Hamid said that he hoped for more training like the CALFEX will continue between the 2-12 IA and the 2HBCT in the near future.

"On behalf of all the Soldiers we cannot thank the Spartan Brigade enough for this great training, and I hope we will continue to grow and expand this training as both forces work as brothers," said Staff Brig. Gen. Hamid.