US Military conducts machine gun live fire exercise. FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Your heart is racing. The earth is trembling under your feet from the artillery fire pounding the ground. You can't see because of the dust and debris filling the air. You can't breathe because of the clouds of smoke filling your lungs. You can barely hear the man next to you shouting into your ear over the roar of gunfire and explosions. This is combined arms combat, and it's a sensory overload.
Paratroopers from 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment learned to fight through the chaos and confusion of battle during their Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise which took place from March 13 " 19 at OP 13 here.
"It looks hectic, but it's really not. You just have to tune everything out and do your job," said Spc. Keith Stevens, a radio and telephone operator with A Co, 1st Bn., 325th AIR.
The purpose of staging a CALFEX is to practice synchronization between the different elements in the fight in the most realistic environment possible, said Lt. Sean Gailey, battalion air operations officer.
"How often do you have artillery, air support, and infantry in the same fight? It's great because it builds confidence in all the different units to work together," Gailey said.
The mission during the CALFEX was to conduct a tactical movement to an objective, gain entry by breaching the security perimeter, assault and clear a building, and then defeat an enemy counterattack.
The exercise gave company commanders the opportunity to employ most of the different combined arms assets that would be available to them in real combat, including artillery support, mortars, anti-tank weapons, and demolitions.
Each company in the battalion completed multiple iterations of the assault over the course of the week. After beginning with dry runs and blank fire rehearsals, the exercise culminated in separate day and night live fire assaults.
"It was very realistic with all the rounds flying around," said Pfc. Chuck Garcia, a medic with A Co. "I asked my platoon sergeant how often people actually get shot on these things, and he said, don't ask, or you'll jinx it."
Garcia's sergeant may have just been trying to scare him, but the dangers were real. With artillery fire being brought in as close as possible to the Paratroopers on the ground, the risk of friendly-fire casualties was high. But fire support specialists like Pfc. Phillip Settles helped the artillery batteries to put accurate rounds on target.
"My job is to relay battlefield information. If information gets scrambled up, it could get ugly out there," Settles said.
Pfc, Marc Phillips, another fire support specialist with A Co, said the CALFEX was a valuable exercise because it demonstrated the importance of fire support to the infantry.
"With enough time and enough firepower, the infantry can overcome any obstacle. Only, they might have to take ten casualties. But if the forward observer is doing his job, he can blow the obstacle up without (the infantry) even having to move," said Phillips.
Video Description Credit: Spc. Mike Pryor 2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs, 82nd Airborne Division
Video Credits: Cpl. Stephanie Cervantes, Lance Cpl. Kasey James Prime, Lance Cpl. Zachary Catron and Lance Cpl. Marcus Campbell
Video Thumbnail Credit: Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva