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Brigade commander say troops getting ready
NTC village drag wounded
Soldiers learn how to help the wounded in this exercise. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
First Brigade soldiers are currently experiencing their most intense training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
The brigade’s approximately 4,300 soldiers are scheduled to deploy for the Army’s advise and assist mission as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in mid-December.
Col.  Roger Cloutier, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team commander, said NTC offers soldiers a “condensed timeline” of various situations they may encounter in Iraq. He said there will be “a lot of days when nothing happens” during the upcoming year-long deployment. But, soldiers must be ready for those days when anything and everything can occur, he said.
“NTC is a lot more kinetic,” Cloutier explained. “It’s meant to test our systems.”
The colonel said medical mass casualty drills will be held over the next two weeks, although this type of situation is not now expected in Iraq.
“We’re going to force those systems to operate,” he said.
Cloutier said every soldier will be exposed to difficult conditions and NTC is the best place the Army has to challenge its troops and prepare them to serve in Iraq.
“There is nowhere else in the world where you can get this level of replication,” he said.
Cloutier, who has 21 years in the Army and has been in command of the 1st Brigade for 15 months, said the intent of the training at NTC, “is to make NTC harder than conditions on the ground (in Iraq).”
“It’s compressed and you have a lot coming at you,” he said.
The colonel explained the advise and assist nature of the mission is to help enable the Iraqi security forces to protect their own citizens.
“They’re a sovereign nation,” he said.
Cloutier stressed it is the Iraqi leadership who asks the United States for assistance, and any assistance they request at various levels is “at the discretion of the Iraqi commander.”
The colonel said Iraqis have improved security over the past several years and “are in the lead.”
Other units training with the 1st Brigade at NTC include the 422nd MPs from Alaska, the 1-2 Aviation Task Force from Fort Carson, Colo., a Reserve civil affairs unit and civilian specialists from the Army Corps of Engineers.
The 1st Brigade itself includes 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry; 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor; 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery; 1-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion; and 3rd Brigade Support Battalion.
“I’m just honored that I can be a part of this,” Cloutier said.
The colonel praised his soldiers, many of whom have had multiple deployments to Iraq.
The brigade commander said his troops arrived at NTC after barely finishing their last combat focus: chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, high-yield explosive consequence management response force.
The CMRF mission put the 1st Brigade “on standby” for possible terrorist attack on U.S. soil or to be ready to handle natural disasters within the Continental United States, Cloutier explained.
He said the brigade should adjust to the new mission in Iraq fairly quickly, having been prepared for CMRF.
“It was really beneficial for us,” he said.
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