News: 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division takes on National Training Center: Security agreement key to smooth transition
Story by Maj. Deanna Bague
FORT IRWIN, Calif. — More than 3,000 Soldiers from 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, known as the 'Ready First Combat Team,' are training at the National Training Center here for an upcoming deployment.
The Soldiers are preparing under conditions that emulate those in the theater of operations. Without exception, said 1st HBCT, 1st Armored Div. Command Sgt. Maj. James Daniels, everyone from the most junior ranks to the senior leadership is engaged in training.
"We received training packets to understand what the security agreement is," said Daniels. "Every Soldier has to understand what he can and can't do when it comes to the security agreement. We receive the training [and] we push it down to the junior Soldiers to ensure they understand it. We can't afford to have an incident if it is not driven by the security agreement."
Daniels said the security agreement outlines various issues including escalation of force and how to operate in and around the cities with the Iraqi counterparts ensuring they are put in the lead.
Col. Larry Swift, brigade commander, engaged in mock key-leader meetings in which he listened to the concerns of role players performing as Iraqi leaders. While playing his assigned role, Swift said the partnership between the U.S. and Iraq is evident in all the undertakings.
"I think that the [Ghazi] chief of police will agree with me that our partnership is strong," said Swift. "I look forward to working with each and everyone of you to build a great relationship."
During the mock negotiations, Iraqi leaders engaged in sometimes heated discussions about matters regarding their Iraqi province such as construction, allocation of funds, medical relief and more.
Daniels, who was present at the mock key-leader engagement, said everything was working the way it is intended — with all the Iraqi leadership sitting at one table hashing out their own issues without 1st HBCT getting heavily involved.
The heavy brigade unit did not deploy its tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles to NTC in order to conduct operations as they will when they deploy to Iraq, said Daniels. However, the Soldiers are training on up-armored and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. The MRAPs are designed to survive IED attacks and ambushes.
All Soldiers are participating in some kind of situational training exercise to prepare them for full spectrum operations in which they will be evaluated on their tactics, techniques and procedures that will enable them to defend and secure all elements as needed. The instruction ranges from identifying and defeating improvised explosive devices, route clearing, live-fire exercises with all crew-serve and individual weapons and casualty evacuations.
Every scenario incorporates the application of combat lifesaver skills to avoid the unnecessary loss of life, said Sgt. Carlos Molinares, the senior line medic for B Company, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st HBCT.
"We had a mass-casualty exercise," said Molinares. "We had about 30 casualties and we had to handle all of them with only four medics. It was very stressful.
The medical piece is important, added Molinares.
"It is key," he said. "In combat we are going to have casualties; that is a fact of life. You need somebody that knows what to do. That's why the training is so important — especially the medical part."
About one-third of the Soldiers of 1st HBCT have deployed before, but for other Soldiers like Pfc. Shaira Jimenez of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, this will be their first deployment.
Jimenez said NTC is challenging for her, but fully accepts it is necessary to train under strenuous conditions in order to survive the demands downrange.
"We need to know how to conduct our missions," said Jimenez. "If we don't learn here then what are we going to do when we are in Iraq?"
Daniels said the unit still has several more weeks of training at NTC under the most arduous environment, but morale among the Soldiers is high.
"If you are on patrol for three or four hours — it's that three or four hours [the same way] as you're going to do it in Iraq," said Daniels. "This is probably the most realistic training that you're going to get at the National Training Center. It doesn't get any better than this."
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