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M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks with Company B, 1st Tank Battalion, stage in the Blacktop training area during 7th Marine Regiment’s Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center April 6, 2016. CALFEX served as the kinetic portion of Desert Scimitar 16, an annual 1st Marine Division training evolution.

Photo by Cpl. Julio McGraw

Preparing to march: 7th Marines conduct CALFEX

14 Apr 2016 | Cpl. Julio McGraw The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

As the largest combined arms, live-fire training facility in the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center has the responsibility of ensuring Marines remain a force in readiness. The installation does this by utilizing more than 1,100 square miles of training area to prepare forces up to a Marine Expeditionary Brigade-level for deployments.

7th Marine Regiment and elements of 1st Marine Division conducted a regimental combat team-sized, Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise April 5-6, 2016, which served as the kinetic portion of Desert Scimitar-16. 

Desert Scimitar is an annual 1st Marine Division training evolution. During the CALFEX, the two-day final exercise, consisted of offensive and defensive operations against a notional enemy, where 7th Marine Regiment provided command and control for RCT-7. The CALFEX is unique in that infantry regimental staffs do not regularly control armor, light armored reconnaissance, or artillery units. 

“The execution for the FINEX began April 5 when we crossed the line of departure with Company C, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, who conducted a zone reconnaissance,” said Capt. Matthew Pederson, assistant operations officer, 7th Marines. “The entire RCT focused on the fundamentals of offensive and defensive operations to integrate combined arms with maneuver.”

‘Magnificent Seventh’ commanded RCT-7 through the Lead Mountain and Blacktop training areas. RCT-7 was comprised of various 1st Marine Division units to include: 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment; 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment; Company C, 3rd LAR; Company B, 1st Tank Battalion; and Battery S, 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, who came together to make up the Ground Combat Element. Combat Logistics Battalion 7 supported the GCE as the Logistics Combat Element for the exercise. 

“The exercise force conducted individual unit training, which began a week prior to the FINEX,” Pederson said. “[We gave the mission to] Task Force 3/7, which included tanks and amtraks, they continued to the Blacktop Strongpoint to seize the regimental objective with artillery support from 3/11 and Sierra Battery, 5/11.”

According to Col. William Vivian, commanding officer, 7th Marines, the exercise is important for the regiment. After returning from the Special Purpose MAGTF-Crisis Response deployment to the Central Command area of operation, the regiment was assigned to 1st MEB and they used this exercise to practice their core skills. 1st Marine Division reassigned ‘Magnificent Seventh’ as the mechanized regiment for the Marine Corps and the regiment used this opportunity to refresh their skills in that area.

“Overall it was a great exercise,” Vivian said. “The Marines worked hard and they showed improvement everyday across the RCT. Before, we weren’t sure what we had, but now we do. I couldn’t be happier with the improvement that went on and we are definitely better prepared for anything that lies ahead.”

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