West Point Cadets Get Firsthand Look at 'Live' Combat

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks about leadership during the commencement ceremony for the U.S. Military Academy Class of 2018. (DoD photo/James K. McCann)
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks about leadership during the commencement ceremony for the U.S. Military Academy Class of 2018. (DoD photo/James K. McCann)

WEST POINT -- Apache helicopters and Air Force A-10 Warthog planes were flying across the range at West Point during the latest summer training exercise for cadets.

It was the first appearance for both as a participant in the training, alongside more familiar elements like mortar shells and live rifle fire.

And front and center, taking in all the action, were West Point senior and junior cadets. Some were taking notes.

The message was clear: One day this could be them, after they graduate, become second lieutenants and lead their own Army platoon into battle.

The Combined Arms Live Fire Exchange, or CALFEX, is the culmination of cadet leader development training, said Maj. Jay Morgan of West Point's Department of Military Instruction. It is intended to show a coordinated effort among different Army units and other military branches.

"This shows them what their potential role is," Morgan said. "It gives cadets a chance to see their future selves."

West Point modified and expanded its range so the Warthogs and Apaches could take part in the training here. In the past, cadets would have to be sent elsewhere for such training.

While the cadets watched from bleachers on Thursday afternoon, soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., took up defensive positions atop a hill. They were to defend this hill from an attack by an enemy, represented by orange markers at a forward position below them. On a distant hill, the positions of enemy tanks were marked.

The soldiers began firing, while howitzers fired mortar rounds at the tank positions in the distance.

At some point, there was a call for a fixed wing attack, and the A-10s, piloted by members of the Maryland Air National Guard, flew into action. One after another they flew over the enemy tank positions. There were orange flashes below, followed by clouds of smoke and dust.

"Destroy the BMPs!" came the next command. (BMPs are a type of Russian tank.)

The low-flying Apaches, with members of the 10th Mountain Division at upstate Fort Drum at the controls, flew over the tanks.

More flashes, more smoke, more dust.

Meanwhile, there also was smoke rising from the forward position where the soldiers were firing at the enemy.

Eventually, word came over the loudspeaker that the battle was over. The hill had been successfully defended.

Even before the action began, cadets were praising their time in the leadership training, while looking forward to the demonstration. Michaela Sulley of Portsmouth, N.H., who hopes to go into the Army's engineering branch, said it would help her understand the tactics cadets study in military science classes.

"This has been one of the greatest learning opportunities I've had here," Sulley said. "This helps you see the big picture, and see where you fit into the puzzle."

This article is written by Michael Randall from The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Show Full Article