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4th BCT gearing up for Iraq
Deployment starts this spring
vanguard focus 5
In a diplomatic scenario during Vanguard Focus on Fort Stewart, an Iraqi national, who plays the role of an Iraqi police chief, meets with troop commanders and their interpreter. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
The Vanguard Focus exercise going on this week is preparing 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team soldiers for constantly changing realities in today’s Iraq. A primary aspect of this training is to instill in soldiers the proper mindset for the Army’s recalibrated advise and assist mission.
Vanguard Focus kicked off on Feb. 22 and will end March 4. More than 3,000 Vanguard soldiers are involved in the brigade-wide collective training which is being conducted on a 20-to-50-mile stretch within Fort Stewart’s vast range.
Maj. Mark Geeting, 4th IBCT public affairs officer, said Vanguard Focus is the brigade’s “final prep” before the 4th Brigade heads in April to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. The brigade is due to deploy to Iraq in July. The upcoming deployment will be the second one to Iraq for these Vanguard warriors.
Geeting said the brigade’s primary goal when it deploys to Iraq is to “assist the Iraqi Security Forces at their behest” and to help stabilize the country.
The major said American soldiers are still training Iraqi soldiers and police, but the relationship has developed into more of a partnership.
“They have the lead,” he said.
Geeting confirmed soldiers were graded by observer controllers on how they handled various situations. Any mistakes made during training are not be repeated when in country, he said.
The training incorporates a number of scenarios to prepare 4th brigade soldiers for every possible situation they could encounter, said Maj. John Grantz, officer in charge of situational training.
“It’s critical to get out here and run them through the exercises before we get to NTC,” Grantz said. “We’ll run them through over and over and if they are weak in some areas, we’ll go through it repeatedly, but with different twists each time to give them a different flavor.”
Grantz said Vanguard
soldiers would face “every type of situation they may run into in Iraq.”
The major explained that each time soldiers deploy to Iraq the location to which they are assigned may change. Therefore, soldiers are trained in both urban and rural environments, he said. Mock Iraqi villages, some with multiple-story concrete block structures to simulate city buildings, are hidden among Fort Stewart’s expansive pine forests.
One scenario trained troop commanders in cross-cultural, community-level diplomacy. Army leaders and interpreters met with Iraqi nationals playing the role of district police chiefs.
Geeting said employing Iraqi nationals as role players enhances training.
“It gets them (soldiers) in the mindset of Iraq,” he said.
Soldiers from Hunter Army Airfield were also called in to participate as role players, Grantz added.
En route to the “meeting” with key Iraqi leaders, soldiers would encounter an IED which was buried along a village road near a propane tank. Then, the Explosive Ordinance Disposal team was called in to remove the roadside bomb.
Sgt. 1st Class Dana McClanahan, with the 731st EOD, has been an EOD team member since 1991. McClanahan planted the mock IED for Vanguard soldiers to find. A veteran of recent wars, he deployed to Afghanistan twice and returned from an Iraq deployment last May.
The sergeant emphasized soldiers risk injury and death if they don’t follow strict safety precautions regarding explosives. He said insurgents can easily find materials to make IEDs, and then will hide them in everything from piles of sand to trash heaps, burlap sacks and backpacks.
McClanahan said EOD teams often employ bomb disposal robots, such as the compact Pacbots and the larger Talons. The robots help give EOD team members an added measure of safety since they can operate these robots by remote control at a distance from a suspected explosive device.
The 4th Brigade will continue its training through the end of the week.
On Monday, working military dogs will team with Vanguard soldiers for a cordon and search training operation and later this week the 703rd Brigade Support Battalion’s medical company will hold a simulated mass casualty exercise.
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