A loud blast resounds when the 106mm Watervliet Arsenal recoilless cannon is fired by the First Battery of the 6th artillery group of the Mexican Army. The shell hits a tiny rectangle placed on Perla Hill, resembling an armored vehicle, leaving a distant curtain of smoke. The deafened artillerymen hit their target.
Due to the characteristics of the artillery, these practices require the 60,538 hectares of the National Training Center (Centro Nacional de Adiestramiento, CNA), as explained by Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Macías, commander of this group, who is visiting this field.
The National Training Center (Centro Nacional de Adiestramiento, CNA) of the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA), located in the military field 42-A of Santa Gertrudis, Chihuahua, is considered the largest in the country. Including the adjacent Military Livestock Breeding facility, it covers 150,000 hectares.
Here, military commanders and their aides, command groups, units of the Mexican Army and Mexican Air Force carry out the third, fourth, and fifth phases of their training for the conduct of internal security, public security, and national defense operations.
In the middle of the desert, with nothing for kilometers around, a watchtower is visible. It is the Francisco Villa shooting range. In the distance, and upwards, you can see how armed T-6C Texan II planes cross the “woolly” Chihuahua sky in a matter of seconds to fire their shots at the ground.
These are reconnaissance, attack, bombing, or transport flights. They fly at 10, 20, and 30 degrees and pass within 30 meters of the ground, maneuvers that are not seen every day but are part of modular training in the third phase.
On the ground, the 5th mechanized regiment deploys AMX-13 tracked armored vehicles for offensive operations: penetration and the capture of an objective.
It is noted that the CNA is the ideal place for training, as they use weapons with a range of up to 6 kilometers.
In this space, armored units, armored regiments, and brigades go through modular training, and then carry out joint activities. Once they reach the fourth phase, each force undergoes Combined Arms Training, where artillery, infantry, engineers, cavalry, or armored units conduct a national defense exercise.
In the Santa Gertrudis military field, the Mirador de Agua Nueva is known as “the Pinnacle of Training.” From this point, you can see a desert 11 kilometers deep by 5 kilometers wide, surrounded by large masses of land, as if it were a large playground where units of the Mexican Army, Air Force, and National Guard can be seen interacting.
With binoculars around their necks, commanders materialize the conception, planning, and conduct of the fifth phase of combined arms national defense training operations.
In September, the CNA celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary, with over 100,000 individuals who have passed through here, including commanders, aides, troops, and services, always with the mission of defending the nation’s integrity, independence, and sovereignty. General Issac Bravo remembers his time at this center when he was a captain in the year 2000, joining an armored unit. “For me,” he says, “it is a true honor, pride, and a challenge to be here as the commander of the CNA, as this is the essence for personnel to be trained, trained, and effectively fulfill their missions.”