3rd Brigade prepares for battle - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

3rd Brigade prepares for battle

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February 19, 2007

by Jon Kalahar

Fort Irwin, CA --  Fort Benning's 3rd Brigade is at Fort Irwin in California preparing for another deployment to Iraq.   Much of their training centers around avoiding roadside bomb attacks.  

Nineteen of the twenty-nine brigade soldiers who died during their last tour in Iraq were killed by roadside bombs.

The sunrise brought another day at the National Training Center for soldiers of the Second Platoon Alpha. This exercise is one of the most important they may go through during their stay. Soldiers will test on how well they react to improvised explosive devices or roadside bombs.

They have to be able to spot them and then find the possible trigger man. It's not easy. "You can't really maneuver on an IED cause you can't see it," said Spc. Clint Biddle. "You don't know where it's at. Same for car bombs and suicide bomb, they just walk right up and boom you're gone."

That's what makes this training so intense. Sergeant Rafael Rodriguez will head to Iraq for a second time, he trusts the training. "Everybody's scared you know, but that's when training comes to play. Once you practice a drill you get adrenaline pumping, you know, it just becomes, we call it muscle memory."

Even though this is just training, they try to make it as real as possible. Here they've had a soldier wounded in an IED  attack. This is something they may face everyday on the ground in Iraq. The insurgent in this case was killed, but not before detonating a car bomb. Soldiers spill out of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle to help the wounded.

Colonel Steve Salazar, once in charge of leading the Third Brigade, now leads the operations group at NTC. It's his job to make sure soldiers have seen it all before they even set foot in Iraq. "We very much replicate what happens in Iraq and we're focused on training soldiers and preparing them to go to Iraq," said Salazar.

And in Iraq today, stopping roadside bomb attacks will save lives. Easier said than done. "They're so smart with it," said Sgt. Robert Butler. "They come out with so many different ways, it's really hard to combat it."

But that's what makes IEDs so dangerous. In most cases, soldiers never see the enemy. That's how insurgents level the playing field.

"You could shoot at me all day, if you shoot at me at least I know where you are at, but when you start putting out IEDs, suicide vests, or car bombs, it's the unknown cause they just start sneaking up on you," said Butler. 

On this day, Second Platoon Alpha is given good marks for handling the different IED scenarios. Scenarios that become real in just a few weeks.

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