FORT POLK, La. — Soldiers from Delta Company, 1st “Black Knights” Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, started off their rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., with a live-fire convoy operations training exercise May 4-9.

“The live fire is all about integrating mounted and dismounted operations and indirect assets,” said 2nd Lt. Philip Macfarland, a platoon leader. “It’s really a combination of all the skills we’ve been learning.”

Soldiers were scheduled to execute mission simulations similar to those expected to take place in theater. “(This training) is pretty much identical to what we are going to be doing in Afghanistan,” Macfarland said.

Soldiers conducted two practice runs — one without ammunition and a second using blanks, preparing themselves with skills needed for the live fire.

“The point is that by the time we get out to the live fire, every recovery skill, every call for fire skill, every combined arms skill will be rehearsed and fine-tuned,” Macfarland said.

Soldiers’ fine-tuning was escalated with a detailed simulation, including improvised explosive device simulators, helicopter landings and distant battle sounds.

“So far (the training center) has been pretty good,” Macfarland said. “They really pulled out all the stops for our training out here.”

The live fire was especially useful to soldiers who are new to the Army and their career fields.

“I’ve never been deployed so this (training) will give me confidence to do my job overseas and under pressure,” said Pvt. Dustin Cerrick, an armor crewmember.

Combat veterans and leaders used the exercise to their advantage as well, said Staff Sgt. Mark DeLeon, an infantryman with the company.

“It’s a great opportunity to work out the kinks and the bugs so that when we get downrange, we will be able to execute the mission,” DeLeon said. “The training is going well, and I believe the troopers are having a great time.”

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