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Second BCT exercises readiness
Soldiers hone their medical skills. - photo by Army photo
MEDINA JABAL — You don't hear any pessimism in this “Iraqi” village on Fort Stewart, and very little questioning of the future.
Everyone here is focused on their mission of preparing for the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team deployment to Iraq. That deployment is still officially scheduled for May, but soldiers sound like they won’t be surprised if that timeline is accelerated.
The BCT is undergoing its Mission Rehearsal Exercise under the tutelage of about 1,200 people from the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. The MRE is the capstone of the training of the BCT's training for Iraq. After the MRE and a thorough after action review of the way the unit has handled the scenarios devised by the NTC personnel, the BCT will be certified as ready for its job in Iraq.
For the MRE, soldiers are placed in situations as realistic as the Army can make them and presented with scenarios such as normal shopping, IED explosions, committee meetings with Iraqi counterparts, complex insurgent attacks and a wide variety of situations like those they will face in Iraq.
In this and similar villages, 250 Iraqi-Americans work with U.S. soldiers assigned to play the roles of the Iraqi police, army and insurgents.
The emphasis is clearly now on Iraqis' capacity to defend and operate their own country. The brigade commander, Col. Terry Farrell, makes this clear in one encounter with a village mayor who is complaining that he cannot make the town secure enough for people to get out on the streets or for the children to go to school.
"I know you can do this," Farrell said. "We are here to help you." Looking nervous, the mayor said, "The whole world is watching us . . ." but Farrell replies, "the whole world is watching not just us, they are watching our coalition. And they will see us succeed."
Soldiers from the colonel on down to the 18 and 19-year-olds express either a concern for the world situation as they view it —  "If we pull out it will be totally worse for everyone," — or a sense of duty shown by remarks like, "This is our job. We are trained to do it."
And the finishing touches are being put on that training now. The NTC is the army's premier training facility, and Fort Stewart isn't. But everything possible has been done to bring top notch training here.
"Yes, there are some things we couldn't bring," said Maj. Curtis Roberts of the NTC. We couldn't bring the desert." The NTC is in the extreme climate of the Mojave Desert, part of it within two miles of Death Valley. "We couldn't bring the size of the NTC." The California facility is twice the size of Fort Stewart. "And we couldn't bring the facilities built up during the years we have been running this training. The NTC  does 10 to 12 training rotations a year and we have Iraqi towns with as many as 80-100 buildings."
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