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Troops train for next Afghan mission

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Posted: Friday, August 3, 2012 5:00 am | Updated: 8:16 am, Fri Sep 21, 2012.

Training is paramount with First Army Division West.

Every year, the division trains and mentors thousands of soldiers from National Guard, Reserve and active-duty units from throughout the U.S. Army. Now, Division West has the privilege of training some of its own.

The 1st Engineer Battalion, 395th Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, recently trained members of a NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan team.

"We are training the (training mission) group, which is comprised of soldiers from within Division West, for a mission to theater," said Sgt. 1st Class Henry Castillo, an operations noncommissioned officer with the battalion.

The training mission unit is an 18-soldier team, with 12 soldiers from the 479th Field Artillery and 120th Infantry brigades at Fort Hood, three from the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade at Fort Bliss and the remaining three from the 181st Infantry Brigade at Fort McCoy, Wis. They are a mix of active-duty and Reserve soldiers.

The team's primary mission will be to advise Afghan National Army battalions, called kandaks.

The training mission team is a multi-function unit ranging from logistics and operations to administration and signal. Regardless of their functional duties, team members were required to go through combat training, which recently took the form of counter-IED operations at Fort Hood.

The exercise to locate roadside bombs will benefit the training mission soldiers when they are in Afghanistan, said Castillo, not only by teaching them how to defeat the explosive device before it finds them, but aiding in the team-building of this diverse group.

"We've all come from different parts of the states, and we are here figuring out who fits where the best," said Staff Sgt. Sten Anderson, an infantry soldier with the 181st Infantry Brigade and a driver with the training mission unit. "We are putting our skills together and making a great team."

After completing their initial training at Fort Hood, the soldiers will travel to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., where they will finish training.

"The (training mission) team will do a six-month rotation in Afghanistan to be able to further assess current threats in that country," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Rubach, an observer controller and trainer with the

engineer battalion.

It is a rare opportunity for Division West to train Division West, Rubach said. "Even though we are trainers, we also need to be trained from time to time."

It is a big responsibility to train his brothers-in-arms, said Staff Sgt. Ricardo Curbelo, an observer controller and trainer with the battalion.

"When our soldiers are deployed, they depend on what I teach them to keep them alive," said Curbelo. "I would love to see my fellow soldiers I have trained after their deployment and know that something I taught them might've brought them home safely."

Division West's training mission team will deploy to Afghanistan at the end of summer.

"The mentoring of the Afghan forces is something that needs to continue," Anderson said. "It's a huge plus for Division West to share our training with them for the good of their country."

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