Photo by Pfc. Bernabe Lopez

Cavalrymen assigned to the “Mustang Squadron,” 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, fire a round from the modernized M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tank during a combined arms live fire exercise, Sept. 8 on Fort Stewart.

Mustangs certify modern lethality during exercise

The “Mustang Squadron,” 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, conducted a combined arms live fire exercise for the first time in over two years to certify the squadron’s effectiveness on a battlefield from Sept. 1-8 on Fort Stewart. The 6th Sqn., 8th Cav. Regt., 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID, completed modernization this past July, making it the Army’s most modern cavalry squadron, and is preparing to defeat any threat in large-scale combat operations through expert coaching and well-trained, cohesive teams.

“We have the newest vehicles in the Army’s inventory: the M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tank, the Bradley A4 Fighting Vehicles, … the M109A7 Paladins … and we have the division’s newly fielded AH-64 Apache helicopters as well,” said Lt. Col. James Perkins, commander of 6th. Sqn., 8th Cav. Regt., 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID. “And the CALFEX brings all those elements in one place and time to achieve a combined arms effect on the battlefield.”

The squadron conducted a CALFEX for the first time in over two years, and the purpose of the training was to assess and certify platoons on their ability to maneuver tactically.

“This is the first time in over two years this event has occurred for the squadron, and it usually will happen once a year, if we’re lucky,” Perkins said. “So this is a fantastic opportunity, and it’s really a leadership factory because not only are the Soldiers training, but it’s their first real opportunity to that these platoon, troop and company commanders have to apply this, to report to higher headquarters, to work with aviation and other enablers and integrate them into their battle plan. Before this, it’s academic, now they’re actually seeing the application of that on the battlefield. This is a critical event in preparation for future operations.”

One of the goals of the CALFEX focused on the platoon’s ability to exercise its leadership skill, ensuring its platoon leaders and platoon sergeants possess a thorough understanding on what to do in combat situations and teach their Soldiers how to do things so they may teach others as well.

“My platoon sergeants and platoon leaders, it’s their first time operating a platoon in this way, integrating enablers and everything else we’re doing out here,” said Capt. John Wainwright, commander of Charlie Troop, 6th Sqn. 8th. Cav. Regt., 2nd ABCT. “Even though they have a doctrinal understanding of what they’re doing, they’re combining the science of what they’ve learned with the art of how it’s executed.”

The CALFEX also demonstrated the shoot-move-communicate principles in combat operations using the newest armored vehicles in its arsenal to effectively and efficiently operate as a lethal, modernized force and be deployment ready.

“For the Mustang Squadron, it’s really the capstone of our training glide path,” Wainwright said. “Bringing in the entire Army team, working with all enablers to pull things together to integrate every asset that’s available to us … that these platoon leaders will likely see in combat. It’s the capstone at the top of demonstrating proficiency on their weapon system, proficiency at the small unit level and pulling in everything else to be a lethal platoon.”

Communication is key for Soldiers to maintain a smooth flow of transition and maintain constant readiness on a battlefield.

“Everything that is encountered on the battlefield is what we’re trying to simulate with the CALFEX,” said 1st. Sgt. Terry Spratt, the senior enlisted advisor of Charlie Troop, 6th Sqn., 8th. Cav. Regt., 2nd ABCT. “What’s important is the synchronization that it all takes. We’re doing it at the platoon level, but we’re also using outside assets [such as the] AH-64 Apaches, artillery, organic mortars. We even have our sister troop, Delta Tank, maneuver with us as well … conduct battle handovers and work on what that looks like as we exercise as hunter killer teams.”

During the CALFEX, troopers who were executing this level of training for the first time faced challenges communicating across multiple platforms.

“Communication is always a tough one,” Spratt said. “You’re learning to talk across multiple platforms with teams that have not really experienced that yet. We recently shot gunnery not too long ago, so now we’re taking that training that we’ve previously done and stepping it up to the next echelon. The challenge isn’t only synchronization, but the battle handovers and what that looks like at the small team level and how it’s executed. There’s a lot of tasks to accomplish, and it’s the synchronization that is the biggest key to this.”

Whether it’s methods that work or don’t work, or methods needing to continually be improved upon and how to go about it differently, such matters are discussed in after action reviews between senior leadership and crews to find solutions for better results.

“This experience has helped me develop a better understanding of where my platoon is at and where we need to continue to work on to refine and get better,” said Staff Sgt. Wes Dean, an M2A4 Bradley Fighting Vehicle master gunner assigned to Charlie Troop, 6th Sqn., 8th Cav. Regt., 2nd ABCT. “That way in the future, when we do deploy, we know what we need to work on and train as far to get better.”

After action reviews are discussions designed to help Soldiers learn from their mistakes and improve for next time, knowing what right looks like after the AAR.

“As a unit or platoon, you really get to see all those effects come into play at the same time,” Dean said. “By doing that, you’re doing your crawl-walk-run which is dry, blank and live [firing]. You’re getting plenty of after action reviews to be able to refine those and keep practicing as you build upon what you started with on your first dry run. By the time you get to live [firing], you’ve already executed the lane three or four times and have a good understanding of what’s happening.”

Whether a CALFEX to certify a force’s capabilities, or in engagement with an enemy, every Soldier plays an integral role in the simulation combat situation.

“It’s important because we’re in charge of casualty evacuation,” said Spc. Anthony Marquez, a cavalry scout assigned to Charlie Troop, 6th. Sqn., 8th Cav. Regt., 2nd ABCT. “And making sure the platoon is ready to run as a whole, and if anything happens, we’re there to fix it on the spot and make sure everything is good to go.”

From the planning of operations by senior leadership to the execution conducted by those on the battlefield, it is important to understand how to teach others.

“I hope to be more proficient at my job and more confident,” Marquez said. “Especially when we promote down the line, you’re going to need to learn all this [because] it’s important.”

The CALFEX certifies the unit through trial and error, making it ready and lethal for combat.

“This combined arms live fire is really the first time we’ve had all elements of the division’s modernization together in one place [and] at one time working in concert,” Perkins said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to show what 3rd ID is capable of, what this modern equipment brings to the battlefield and even more importantly, what a trained, disciplined, fit and ready Soldier can do with the right equipment, at the right place, with the right leadership to win on a battlefield anywhere, anytime that the nation calls us.”

The “Spartan Brigade,” 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID, is the Army’s most modern land fighting force and is preparing to defeat any threat in large-scale combat operations through expert coaching and well-trained, cohesive teams.

Pfc. Bernabe Lopez
3rd Infantry Division