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Fort Drum soldiers set to leave for National Training Center

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FORT DRUM — Soldiers from the post will continue their preparation for future deployments as they head off over the next few months to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team will take the first cycle of about a month at the center.

A small contingent of brigade leadership already has arrived there, and about 3,000 additional soldiers will make the cross-country trip in the next 10 days.

Originally, the first group from the post’s 10th Mountain Division set to go was the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, until a change in mission prompted a delay until about mid-September. In that original plan, the 1st Brigade would have sent about half of its soldiers.

Maj. Matthew J. Hardman, executive officer for the 1st Brigade, said the training period would build upon the post’s Mountain Peak exercise, held last month. He said the center’s hot climate and rough, hilly terrain will help in ensuring soldiers’ readiness. Temperatures at Fort Irwin in late summer frequently can come close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It’s something different, and that in itself is a good training opportunity for them and their leaders,” Maj. Hardman said.

Lt. Col. Keith A. McKinley, commander of the 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, said in the past the primary training for soldiers was held at places such as the National Training Center. However, a more rigorous Mountain Peak on post allowed for soldiers to identify and retrain in problem areas before going to the center.

One major aspect of the training will be the simulation of cities and rural areas of Afghanistan, including an accompaniment of about 2,000 soldiers from Fort Irwin’s 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment who will pose as Afghan insurgent forces as well as civilian, military and police leaders. Also helping will be a group of trained mentors, who will watch over the soldiers and leaders during the exercise.

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