FORT CARSON, Colo. – Five “Iron Knights” soldiers participated in an open forum at Trinidad State Junior College, where local citizens of the community asked questions about the Army, service to the nation, and the unit’s recent deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Jan. 23.
Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, shared their experiences in Afghanistan, and how training at Pinon Canyon, located near Trinidad, Colo., contributed to the success of the unit’s mission.
“The terrain is the most important key, because it’s similar to places like Iraq or Afghanistan,” said 1st Lt. Scott Hendrickson, scout platoon leader, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div. “Hills and canyons are something we might encounter, so we need to know how to navigate them in order to complete our missions.”
Realistic training provides soldiers tactical knowledge and experience necessary to save lives during deployments, Hendrickson told the audience.
“It prepares us to the best of our ability to not have any failures, because failures in our line of work could end up costing someone their life,” he said.
Local patrons also shared their appreciation for the soldiers, expressing gratitude for their service to the nation and outreach to the community.
“I think what many of us have taken for granted is the importance of what you do,” said Felix Lopez, President of Trinidad State Junior College. “We need to proudly tell the story of who we are as a nation, and show the people what it was like in Afghanistan through the eyes of a soldier.”
Many people attending the forum showed curiosity about the Afghan culture and the perception of soldiers in the Afghan villages.
“Almost every Afghan was distrustful of American soldiers at first, but the more time we spent with the people, and (the Afghans) seeing that we were genuinely trying to help them, the more they bonded with us,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Knese, scout platoon sergeant, HHC, 1st Bn. 66th Armor Regiment, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div.
Eventually, the soldiers became friends with the villagers, Knese said.
“Children held the soldiers’ hands while they conducted … patrols and the men of the villages invited them over for dinner," he added.
As the open forum ended, the Trinidad community personally thanked the soldiers for their service and everything they do in defense of the nation.
“I would personally like to say thank you, because I can really only do my job if my family is safe back here,” said Hendrickson. “So thank you for supporting American soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors, and for just being an American.”