Thunderous explosions echoed through the hills as fiery rockets arched over the horizon in a mock combat and rescue mission June 9 at Fort Carson, Colo.
Jordanian military officials, service members and their families, and hundreds of other members of the public watched as units from the Colorado National Guard and Fort Carson conducted a combined arms live fire exercise.
Roughly a thousand spectators milled about military displays and filled bleachers to watch the scripted presentation as Soldiers and Airmen fought and worked together – just as they would in actual combat.
The event was hosted by the 169th Fires Brigade; the 3rd Battalion, 157th Field Artillery; the 140th Wing; and the 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery. The units representing the Colorado Army and Air National Guard, and the U.S. Army.
Colorado Army National Guard Lt. Col. Bob Davis, deputy commander of the 169th FiB, said the event served as training for these service members in addition to educating and entertaining the public.
“The value of doing this is to train and work together, so we know how we’ll operate in unison when duty calls,” said Davis.
Use of the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled mobile artillery vehicle for indirect fire support in combat was great practice for Fort Carson’s 3-29th, said Staff Sgt. William David McLaurin, paladin section chief.
“We’re excited to support the National Guard,” said McLaurin. “This exercise is good practice for us, and it’s great to work with the Guard.”
Rockets and cannons fired as visitors like Steve Beaver, a retired Air Force veteran from Colorado Springs, Colo., looked on.
“Wow. What an impressive show,” said Beaver. “It was excellent to witness.”
The CALFEX presented a unique opportunity for the Colorado National Guard and active duty troops to train as they fight, further developing the partnerships between these units, said 1st Lt. Jeremiah VanDorsten, 2nd Platoon leader, Battery B, 3-157th Field Artillery.
“We’ve developed a relationship with the 3-29th and they’re great to work with,” said VanDorsten. “They’re eager to work with the Guard and participate in field artillery training.”
Along with the Paladin and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System on display, the 188th Forward Support Company drove a convoy of Humvees into a simulated improvised explosive device attack.
“Younger Soldiers get a kick out of this type of event, especially those who haven’t deployed and seen these types of situations in actual combat yet,” said COARNG Staff Sgt. Shad McCoy, distribution platoon sergeant with the 188th FSC. “It’s a good culmination for all the training they’ve done.”
After the convoy attack, the 188th set up a landing zone for a UH-72A Lakota helicopter from the 2nd Battalion, 135th General Support Aviation to evacuate the mock wounded.
“This is my first experience in a CALFEX,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Clint Moore, a pilot with 2-135 GSAB. “I think the training we get with the other units is invaluable.”
HIMARS crews practiced and rehearsed for days leading up to the CALFEX, expending more than 100 rounds in preparation for the event.
“It’s a good day when you can shoot some rockets,” said VanDorsten.