February 8, 2005
Fort Stewart-- Georgia soldiers being deployed to service in Iraq are all members of the 48th Brigade. That’s an enhanced brigade combat team made up of infantry soldiers.
There are about 4,500 members of the brigade. About 3,300 will actually be sent overseas. Also close to 1,000 troops from other units are attached to the brigade. They come from eight states as close as Alabama and as far away as Wyoming.
Nearly all the troops are training here at fort Stewart now. In early spring they'll go for more intensive training at fort Irwin, California before shipping out to Iraq, probably in may.
A special group of soldiers are part of the Mechanized Infantry Company, and they ride into battle in Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles.
"We're just like your regular ground soldiers except we ride into battle," says Lt. Michael Persley of Albany. "It's not a tank and it's not an armored personnel carrier, it's a cross in between."
"The Bradley gunner would actually sit on the left hand side and the Bradley commander, the BC, would sit on the right hand side," says National Guard Trainer Staff Sgt. Walter Kegley of Nashville.
With the Georgia National Guard's call-up, these Bradleys are now, "Getting battle tested and also prepared for duty because those are actually the ones we're taking to Iraq."
The soldiers who will operate the tanks in Iraq are being tested, too. "We're doing the BGST training, which stands for Bradley Gunner Skills Test. The soldiers test at 10 stations. They have ten minutes to disassemble the 25MM Main Gun, mounted on the Bradley, then 10 minutes to put it back together," says Staff Sgt. Kegley.
"The 25MM Main Gun will shoot two types of ammunition - an AP, armor piercing round and an HE, highly explosive round."
Then they have only two minutes to disassemble and re-assemble the COAX machine gun.
"We are actually training and getting ready for our gunnery phase of this train-up to go to Iraq."
And in Iraq, each of these mechanized soldiers will have a job.
"The Bradley commander is busy communicating on the radios with the other vehicles, maneuvering the platoon through the element.
"The gunner would be responsible for engaging and destroying any enemy targets."
The Bradley driver will be responsible for getting them to their destination, which will be somewhere in the deserts of Iraq.
"I think they're the finest we can have. Actually better than some of the ones the actual army is deployed with. I feel real comfortable taking these vehicles with us."
Perhaps as comfortable as he can feel headed into a war zone.
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