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Prepping for Afghanistan
Exercise readies commanders for mission
WEB Exercise 1
Army medical personnel practice loading a wounded soldier on a medevac helicopter Tuesday before mass-casualty exercise on Evans Army Airfield. - photo by Randy C.Murray

A briefing on the 3rd Infantry Division’s role in Afghanistan and an exercise in battlefield medical aid were highlights of activity Tuesday on Fort Stewart.

Several visitors to Fort Stewart’s Evans Army Airfield received a briefing by Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams, commander of the 3rd ID and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, on the 3rd ID’s current operations in Afghanistan and its upcoming role when he deploys with Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion in August and assumes authority of Afghanistan’s Regional Command South.

The briefing was part of a mission rehearsal exercise that began Sunday in preparation for the 3rd ID’s new mission. Also called Unified Endeavor, the joint exercise involved more than 2,500 military personnel and 1,100 civilians, including Army, Air Force and Navy, as well as military personnel from Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Belgium and Spain and International Security Assistance Force soldiers flown to Fort Stewart directly from Afghanistan.

“I just wanted to give you an overview of what we’re doing,” Abrams said as he used a laser pointer to locate Regional Command South — an area the size of the Georgia — on an enlarged map of Southwest Asia. “I remind you the attacks on 9/11 were plotted, planned and controlled from al-Qaida base camps in Afghanistan with the support of the Taliban government. ... Our (primary) role is to develop and assist the Afghan security forces.”

Abrams summarized the 11-year war, noting that America’s allies also have suffered more than their share of casualties. He added that progress in getting the Afghan government to take full responsibility for its country’s security is improving. The Afghan army alone has more than 250,000 soldiers, and there are 80,000 police and paramilitary police, he said.

“The Afghanistan security forces are operating independently, and the remainder is effective with advisors (assistance),” he said. “The (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) is able to provide the rule of law ... It’s still too early to tell for me to say the (overall) potential of their security forces.”

He told visitors the Taliban leaders are operating on a base just over the border in Pakistan, noting that relations with that country have been strained.

Abrams concluded his briefing by answering questions about 3rd ID units already deployed, including the 1/30th Infantry Regiment and the 1/64th Armor Regiment, both battalions with the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team.

Abrams said the “Battle Boars” were operating primarily in the North but also in the Southwest with Special Operations Forces. The “Desert Rogues” are working with a Stryker Brigade in the South, he said.

After the briefing, visitors were given a tour of the joint operation command center by Lt. Col. Chris Willis, chief of current operations. Willis said the exercise is controlled from the JOCC. Abrams added that because of its importance, it’s crucial for the Army to have the right leaders trained to do that mission.

Another part of the visitors’ tour was an opportunity to talk with medical personnel prior to a mass-casualty exercise. Maj. Dale Sharp said the purpose of the exercise was not only to train combat medics but also to test everyday soldiers’ training to help their fellow soldier in emergency situations when a medic isn’t nearby.

In addition to treating the wounded by first stopping all bleeding then verifying the airway was clear, they had to do a 100 percent accountability of personnel. Sharp demonstrated the use of a combat tourniquet every soldier is required to carry in combat, noting the Army had determined 10 years ago they were losing too many soldiers to bleeding because the priority used to be clearing the airway first.

Sgt. Linsey McCray, senior medic at the battalion aid station, said the exercise was important because it gave younger soldiers who’ve never deployed the chance to see what to expect in a war environment. These soldiers had the opportunity to see what kind of wounds to expect and got practice treating those wounds, she said.

The exercise began with several grenade-simulator explosions. The simulated wounded were moved quickly to the battalion aid station, where medics determined the seriousness of their wounds, treated them and then moved them for medical evacuation transport to UH-60 medevac helicopters.

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