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Second Brigade troops prepare for urban warfare
police sign
A sign purports to be recruiting officers for the Mulsin police force. - photo by Photo by Frenchi Jones
Dust fills the air inside one the 3rd Infantry Division’s Bradley Fighting Vehicles and swarms around Pvt. Robert Wagner,
a soldier with 1-64 Armor, 2nd Heavy
Brigade Combat Team, who is seated inside.
The vehicle has just left the wire of a makeshift cantonment area at Fort Stewart’s Taylor’s Creek training area, exposing Wagner and the rest of his unit to the threats that come with combat.
They are headed to the mock city of Muslin, where, much like Iraq, U.S. forces are slowly reducing their presence and the Faisalian people (as they are called) are working to gain sovereignty in their country.
Wagner, 23, has never been deployed — in real life or during practice.
He said he doesn’t know what to expect, but knows he wants to be prepared for anything.
Wagner locks his 28-round magazine clip into his “shorty,” an M4 machine gun with an M-203 grenade launcher attached.
 “You have to be ready just in case,” he said, dusting off his weapon.

Combat ready

“Ready” is exactly what Maj. Mike Jason said he wanted his soldiers to be while they are engaging in a 10-day free play, urban warfare scenario that will continue through Thursday.
Jason, who serves as the brigade operations officer, has designed a 200-square-kilometer combat zone where soldiers from the team will gain hands-on experience dealing with the challenges and stressful situations of being deployed to a combat zone.
He said the staged difficulties of dealing with civilians, terrorist attacks and government officials add to the complexity of deployments.
“Everything is in play here,” he said. “If a vehicle breaks down, you better have someone pulling security.”
Since mid-May, Jason said units from the 2nd HBCT have been rotating at the site, playing either soldiers, civilians or insurgents, working on a host of exercises, including battle drills and accountability and responsibility maneuvers.

Keeping the peace

Late Tuesday morning, Wagner and nearly 200 other soldiers finally reach their destination.
They immediately enter a chaotic situation.
A bomb has just gone off at a café in the city.
Two Faisalian people lie dead on the ground.
Civilians are beginning to crowd the street. Soldiers from the team try to keep the crowd under control.
“Why, why,” a civilian asks. “You did this, you did this. Why must Americans come here?”
Wagner’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Ross Coffman, is already on the scene working on peace negotiations with Muslin’s mayor Al Hadami.  He is hoping to win over his help to keep peace in the city.
 “I’m going to help you stop the insurgents, if you help me find them,” Coffman said. “Together we can fix this. Separated we cannot.”
“We need school supplies,” Hadami said.
“Whatever you need we will try to get you,” Coffman said. “But we need you to help us.”
Hadami goes outside to calm his citizens.

A step closer

The training objective moves in another direction.
This time a sniper has taken aim at the soldiers from the rooftop of a two-car garage.
Two soldiers are shot, one in the arm and one in the leg.
One of them is drug into an abandoned building by Faisilian civilians, the other is recovered.
“Give us our soldier back right now,” a soldier shouts outside the door of the building.
The culmination is a stretch, but Col. Chuck Sexton, commander of the 2nd HBCT, said all the scenarios displayed could happen on the “worst day” any soldier could face during deployment – a lesson all soldiers should be taught.
“If a soldier forgets, even for a few moments, that he or she is not at Fort Stewart, in the cantonment area, then we have done our job,” he said.
It’s just one more step toward getting the soldiers battle-ready for a fall deployment, according to Sexton.
The next one will come when the brigade heads to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Ca., this summer.
“Right now we are in spring training, gearing up for the first half of regular season,” Sexton said. “The world series is going to be when we get into combat.”

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