By Spc. David Hodge

4th Infantry Division public affairs

The dust cloud has settled across the Mojave Desert for the soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division’s Raider Brigade after it completed its training rotation Sept. 9 at the U.S. Army National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team leaves the major combat training center after its soldiers had their skills thoroughly put to the test while learning the latest tactics available in preparation for the for their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom later this year.

“At NTC, we were able to develop steadfast platoons through the conduct of our rotation,” said Lt. Col. Scott McKean, commander, 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment. “Our soldiers demonstrated dedication, perseverance and the willingness to learn and grow as professionals.”

My soldiers truly embraced the concept of ‘every soldier is an ambassador,’ which resulted in positive interaction with the Iraqi (role-players),” McKean said. “This is a critical step forward to become an effective team against a counter-insurgency environment.”

Other units within the brigade also achieved results, taking a good look at their standards and working to build sound operating procedures.

“From reception, staging, orientation and integration thru the situational training exercise lanes and full-spectrum operations, I was incredibly pleased with the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment soldiers,” said the regiment’s Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Beal. “They had excellent attitudes, and they took the training seriously.”

The month-long training exercise, which began in August, proved to the brigade’s soldiers and leaders that a training exercise based upon low-intensify conflicts and counter-insurgency operations, combined with an equally harsh environment, equals some of the best training available.

“NTC provided tough and realistic scenarios that replicated what we will see in Iraq,” Beal said. “Each junior leader exercised their initiative in order to solve the challenges that we faced.”

Staff Sgt. Dennis Miles II, a cavalry scout section sergeant assigned to Alpha Troop, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, said his soldiers “were leading the battle at the lowest level, making good, sound judgment calls.”

The training scenarios soldiers face at NTC today are more than just random exercises. They are meticulously planned to simulate the latest in counter-insurgency operations, said Miles.

“At NTC, we are fighting more of the battles of today — ones we will see when we get downrange,” Miles said. “The way it’s run now really pulls from what is actually happening in the world.”

Overall, the noncommissioned officer said he was impressed with the way his soldiers performed under pressure and met the demands of the realistic training.

“My soldiers ran me to the ground — made me feel good about myself; and I was so impressed with their ability to fight and think on their feet,” Miles said.

Spc. Matthew Gordon, a human intelligence collector assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, said he had to find creative ways to get things done but overall enjoyed the units that he was tasked to support, especially the U.S. Marine Corps 1st Battalion Landing Team, 5th Marines, attached to the Raider Brigade during the training rotation.

“We got to work with the Marine HUMINT team and see how they did the same job,” Gordon said. “The best thing for us was interacting with units that we will deploy with.”

Iraqi role-players and lifelike simulated training events helped the brigade’s soldiers as did the NTC’s observer controllers, the soldiers responsible for supervising the exercise.

“The OCs took on a coaching approach vice an observing role that proved to increase the learning opportunities and ingrain many fundamentals,” McKean said. “They actually helped us focus on our training.”

The intense training on the ground with the soldiers is not the only area that NTC tests. It evaluates the command’s methods of operation as well.

“The ability to fully exercise the staff with multiple, simultaneous missions assisted in identifying and improving our systems and procedures,” McKean said. “We were able to validate our rear detachment operations and rehearse many of the activities we may experience during our deployment.”

During the training exercises at the NTC’s mock cities and villages, the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment soldiers treated and evacuated all simulated casualties within the appropriate amount of time specified by the OCs, said McKean. As a result, the battalion made a noteworthy accomplishment during its rotation at the NTC by not reporting a notional death due to simulated injuries sustained as part of the training event scenarios.

Efforts such as these reflect greatly on the Iron Knight soldiers and their abilities, explained McKean, as the brigade has now trained to fight in one of the most realistic environments the U.S. Army has to offer prior to a deployment.

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