FORT POLK, La. - Although the Joint Readiness Training Center here is known for its dense woodlands, the Raider Soldiers from Fort Lewis, Wash., had no leafy canopy to protect them from the merciless Louisiana sun at the Military Operations in Urbanized Terrain training site June 10.
So intense was the heat and humidity that even in the shaded rooms of the MOUT buildings, Soldiers from B Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment could find no relief. Sweat poured down the Soldiers' faces and soaked through their uniforms.
Sgt. Bryan Jan, the unit fire support sergeant, said after four hours of MOUT training, the most difficult obstacle to overcome was the stifling Louisiana heat.
"We're down here from Washington state, so this isn't quite what we're used to," said Jan.
Their platoon is part of the 4th Brigade's month-long mission-readiness exercise here at JRTC, where every unit will conduct a series of training operations designed to simulate each unit's mission in Iraq.
Staff Sgt. William Haney, the weapons squad leader, said he has two deployments under his belt. He led the training exercise, guiding his Soldiers step by step through the different MOUT situations they will encounter during their deployment.
"Iraq is an urban fight zone," said Haney. "It's important we train how we fight."
Indeed, Haney's training motto is 'Redundancy is the key to success,' which he had his Soldiers repeat throughout the day.
The key to successful room-clearing, said Haney, is the flow of the team.
"One thing that the book doesn't say is you have to be fluid and you have to keep moving, keep that momentum."
Jan also noted the importance of pace and momentum during the course of training.
"This will be my first time deploying, and from what I understand this is what we'll be doing 90% of the time," said Sgt. Jan. "It's all clearing buildings, raids — we need to know this stuff like muscle memory."
One of the biggest obstacles facing the unit is cohesion, Haney said.
"A lot of the guys we have are very new — they've only been in the Army for two weeks or so," he said. "We have to start from the ground up — it's difficult, but we're doing well."
One such soldier is Pvt. Kyle Titus, the weapons squad assistant gunman. Titus is straight out of basic training and only arrived to the unit June 1. He said he enjoys the unit, and he is grateful for the quality of the training he's received, especially with a deployment on the horizon.
"The non-commissioned officers are great, they expect a lot of you, but at the same time, if you mess up and it's something you shouldn't be messing up on, they'll correct you on it," said Titus. "But if it's something they need to teach you, break it down for you, slow it down so you can understand it — they do a great job of that, too."
Jan said he was also new to the unit, having arrived just two months ago.
"They really pulled me along and brought me up to speed real quick."
Although he's new to the Army and the unit, Titus said he understands the importance of a unit's cohesion.
"Today, I'm getting used to being with the guys — my squad — learning how they move, how they react," Titus said.
"Building all this teamwork is the key thing here," he said.
After a full day's training, Jan said he was pleased with his team.
Haney was not only pleased, but said he was impressed with the progress his team had made over the course of a few hours.
"They're doing extremely well. I've worked with a lot of Soldiers, and these guys are definitely the best I've worked with yet," Haney said.
Titus, taking a break from the training to hydrate and catch his breath, said he was motivated.
"This is fun, this is why I joined the Army," he said. "Let's go!"