The Combined Arms Exercise (CAX) program at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC), Twenty-nine Palms, California, is the Marine Corps' most advanced live-fire unit-level combined arms training program for ground and air fire support with maneuver at the tactical level. The Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command at Twentynine Palms is the premier live-fire base in the Marine Corps. Each year roughly one-third of the Fleet Marine Force and Marine Reserve units -- some 50,000 Marines in all -- participate in the base's training exercise program. It draws military personnel from all over the world for Combined Arms Exercises. A CAX involves several hundred Marines playing a war game against a fictitious enemy in which ground troops, armor, artillery, and aircraft engage enemy movements simultaneously.
The Marine Corps' Combined Arms Exercise (CAX) Training Program, developed to enable commanders and Marines to practice combat essentials skills, began in 1975 and allows for both brigade and battalion sized live-fire and maneuver exercises. The operating procedures permit Marines training at the Combat Center to maneuver both on foot and mounted on vehicles through live-ordnance impact areas. It further permits most air and ground weapons commonly found in a Marine Air Ground Task Force to be employed closely, in accordance with current doctrine in a combined arms setting.
The procedures taught at CAX (Combined Arms Exercise) are applicable across all terrain, not just desert warfare. Similar training is not possible aboard other bases. There are too many constraints," Taylor said, adding that "internal friction" such as broken equipment and loss of communications adds to the realism of CAX training. Marines can't effectively train for this set of target skills with MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System) gear or force-on-force exercises. With new technology, services have become more inclined to depend heavily on non-live-fire target training. Combined arms skills are perishable and demand frequent sustainment.