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Gunnery table preps Guard for Iraq
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A sign along a road on Fort Stewart shows soldiers what they may face in Iraq. - photo by Photo by Frenchi Jones
Hot shell casings clanged against the metal frames of more than 20 gun trucks Friday as members of the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team continued training at Fort Stewart in preparation for a July deployment to Iraq.
More than 130 soldiers from the Oregon National Guard unit trained on a gunnery truck table set up to simulate combat warfare in the Middle East.
The soldiers practiced firing mounted 50-caliber machine guns, hitting targets and communicating effectively with other crew members.
“What we are doing here is setting the conditions like they would be in combat,” 1st Lt. Van Zallee said. “Part of what they would experience in combat are live rounds, time limits on target engagements and being in full battle rattle (dressed in full uniform), despite the heat.”  
“Creating artificial stress is a way that you can maximize their performance,” Zallee added. “So that when they do go down range, they can still function.”
At each turn on the red clay road, truck crews of three — a gunner, a TC and a driver — came in contact with simulated sniper fire, improvised explosive devices and insurgents.  
“I think I did better than I did yesterday,” Spc. Larry Brown said. “Yesterday I scored a 594.”
“You got ’em all. You wiped ’em out as soon as they came up,” said Brown’s grader, Staff Sgt. Stewart McGuffey. “That’s a 600!”
And that’s what practice will do, according Col. Dan Hokanson, commander of the 41st IBCT.
“You have to shape an environment that actually tries to resemble their mission,” Hokanson said. “Situational training exercises help to get the soldiers geared up for the big event …”
 “They are never going to be as strong as they are here at Fort Stewart,” Hokanson said of his men and women, “And so you have to send them over as strong as they can be.”
Nearly 3,000 soldiers from the 41st IBCT have been training at Fort Stewart since May. They are scheduled to deploy to Iraq in mid-July where they will replace the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a Texas National Guard Unit.
Both the 41st and the 56th have been trained by the 188th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a reserve unit based at Fort Stewart.
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