By Emily Baker

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD The pungent stench and searing heat of M1 Abrams tank exhaust floated like a mirage above the pavement of a post motor pool Tuesday as the metal beasts roared to life.

More than a dozen clunky, lumbering M1 tanks churned up a choking cloud of dirt as they rolled out toward the posts railhead in a process that looked much simpler than it was.

About 300 vehicles operated by the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division were driven to the posts railhead Tuesday for transport to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., where the brigade will undergo realistic combat training for several weeks. The division will return to Iraq beginning in October.

A weeklong process involving a few inspections ensures the vehicles, including Humvees, trucks and Bradley fighting vehicles, are ready for transport, said Maj. Darrel Tackett, executive officer of the brigades 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment.

Each vehicle must look like the others and have the proper equipment before it will pass inspection, Tackett said. Situating the vehicles so they can be taken to the 105 rail cars that will transport them to Fort Irwin takes about a day, and moving them to the rail cars takes another day, Tackett said.

Just like the training the soldiers will undergo when they get to Fort Irwin in the coming days, loading up the vehicles is realistic practice for the actual deployment.

We are treating it as a dress rehearsal for the deployment, Tackett said.

Soldiers responsible for moving the vehicles said the process provided more important training that just driving. Newer soldiers learned about deployment preparations, while others learned how their units work together.

Its a better feeling now that I know how the platoon and crew work together, said Staff Sgt. Brian Jenkins of the battalions Alpha Company. It is valuable to see how we work together in an actual situation.

For others, loading up the vehicles made the reality of the upcoming deployment a little clearer.

It gets you physically and mentally fit, said Staff Sgt. Lydell Crawford, also of Alpha Company. Giving us a real-world situation puts a whole new meaning on this, and gets us ready for Iraq.

Contact Emily Baker at

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