RODRIGUEZ LIVE FIRE COMPLEX, Republic of Korea --
U.S. and Republic of Korea Marines executed the Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise, or CALFEX, as the culmination of Operation Foal Eagle here March 8 and 9.
"In just a short ten day period, we've gone all the way from a buddy team attack, to a complex live-fire maneuver attack, integrating mortars, jets, helicopters and tanks," said Capt. Douglas Cullins, company commander of Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
"It's the varsity Marine Corps mission," said Cullins, 31, San Diego, "of integrating our ground fighter along with our indirect and our air, which allows us to focus our combat power right on the enemy."
The exercise began with 81 mm mortar and air support, which "softens" enemy fortifications, such as bunkers or trenches. Then tanks rolled in and, along with help from Apache helicopters and F-18 fighters, decimated enemy armor and softened the remaining structures.
"The unique thing about the Marine Corps is that as complex as this attack is, it's no different than the basic fundamentals that a fire team exercise is, that one Marine is always covering his buddy," Cullins said.
Cullins explained that the large-scale exercise resembled fire-team rushes, denoting each element as a "buddy." Helicopters, fighters and mortars loomed overhead suppressing the enemy while tanks and infantry-occupied amphibious assault vehicles rolled forward, closing with. As the air support peeled away, Marine infantry dismounted.
And the dismounts didn't all look alike.
"ROK Marines coming out of the back of U.S. amtrack (Amphibious Assault Vehicle)," said Col. B. P. McCoy, commanding officer, 7th Marine Regiment. "They've been fully integrated from day one of this exercise, mixed fire teams, combined mortar squads ... a Marine gunning and a ROK Marine (assistant) gunning."
Taking up the left flank, ROK Marines pushed forward through the tall grassy fields in step with the U.S. Marines. Together they assaulted up to the objective, killing the "enemy."
The infantry dismounts as close as those last hundred yards, to attack and kill the enemy by fire and grenade, said McCoy.
Though the combined arms of the CALFEX never reached beyond the borders of the Demilitarized Zone, its sounds were surely heard.
"We're making it all go bang in a combined arms fashion, 20 miles from the Korean border, and that's no small feat," McCoy said.