News: Dixie Thunder storms Camp Shelby
Story by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann
CAMP SHELBY, Miss. – The Mississippi Army National Guard’s 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team conducted a combined arms live-fire exercise, or CALFEX, July 23, 2014, here.
The live-fire event partnered M1A2 SEPv2 tanks, M2A3 and M3A3 Bradley/Cavalry fighting vehicles, M109A6 Paladin 155mm artillery, RQ-7 Shadow and RQ-11 Raven unmanned aerial vehicles and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters – all firing and maneuvering on the same range. The CALFEX was the featured event during the brigade’s Warfighter exercise at Camp Shelby.
The July 23 exercise marks the first time in 16 years that the combined weapons have been used together by the “Dixie Thunder” brigade and also the first time the Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center has hosted such an event, said Col. Jeff Van, the 155th ABCT commander.
“The CALFEX was the first opportunity to execute all of these combat powers on one range,” said Col. John M. Rhodes, former commander of the 155th and currently assigned to the Joint Force Headquarters, Mississippi National Guard. “It lets us use all of the enablers and combat power that we would use on the battlefield.”
The event also allowed the Tupelo based unit to demonstrate their knowledge of the vehicles and equipment they use that are among the newest models in the Army National Guard component and the U.S. Army.
“The 155th ABCT is the most lethal, digital BCT in the Army National Guard. We have the newest equipment,” said Van. “We got fielded brand new tanks and brand new Bradleys.”
The 155th began training on their new vehicles in 2011 and the CALFEX was the culmination of all the hard training, said Rhodes.
The brigade received the opportunity to display their training for approximately 20 distinguished visitors including Paul D. Patrick, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Reserve Affairs (Readiness, Training and Mobilization). The others were also from within the Department of Defense.
The Pentagon and National Guard Bureau personnel were present to observe the exercise for an important reason.
“The 155th is possibly being divested due to force structure cuts through the Army and through overall sequestration,” said Van.
“There’s a ranking and an evaluation criteria for that, but we would like to have those people who are making those decisions know first-hand what this “Dixie Thunder” patch can do.”
If the brigade were cut, not only would it be a loss to the Army, but also for the state of Mississippi.
The 155th makes up nearly half of the Mississippi Army National Guard’s strength and are the presence and the security that the state depends on to assist civil authorities during a disaster, said Van.
“Because we are a Guard unit we also have a state mission which is civil support to the local government,” said Van.
The brigade also has military police, engineers, transportation units and infantry that patrol affected areas and set up and secure emergency supply distribution sites.
Not having the brigade in the state could impact Mississippi’s emergency preparedness, said Van.
The brigade hoped to make an impact with the visitors during the CALFEX and wanted them to know that the 155th ABCT is one of the most modernized and experienced National Guard brigade combat teams in the country.
“I hope that what they take back is the lethality of the brigade,” said Van. “The digitalization and the training readiness, at which the 155th is currently at, can’t be replaced.”