Training New Soldiers for Deployment - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/13/07

Training New Soldiers for Deployment

Soldiers training at Fort Stewart. Soldiers training at Fort Stewart.

Thousands of Third Infantry Division soldiers are already in the thick of things in Iraq. Thousands more soldiers from Fort Stewart have yet to join them. Most have already trained for months with their units; however, new, incoming soldiers need to be brought up to speed and fast. That's why the Third Infantry Division is making sure every soldier is ready for battle.

Islamic music fills the air over one of Fort Stewart's training fields. It's a recreation of Baghdad with music, soldiers dressed as Iraqi locals and true to life training.

"Get your hands out of your pockets!" a soldier yelled to a suspected Iraqi insurgent through an interpreter. Operating a simulated checkpoint, he took one step back before, BOOM! An explosive device shattered the quiet morning.

"Unknown casualties!" another soldier shouted to the men and women of her unit. "There are wounded but we don't know if the wounded are KIA (killed in action)."

"Let's go! Let's go! Let's go!" barked another soldier, dragging her comrades to safety.

The soldiers were acting out what could happen if insurgents sneak explosives through a security checkpoint. It's all new to Specialist Hollie Bailey, who works in finance with the Third Sustainment Brigade.

"You never can be prepared enough," she said. "So if I happen to go on a convoy, you're going to be nervous, but with all the adrenaline, you're going to remember something. It's repetitive. You keep practicing."

Working in finance, Specialist Bailey may never actually work a security checkpoint. But the Army feels being prepared is important, so every soldier learns how to do it, just in case.

"We emphasize the importance of it because it could be a matter of life or death," explained Sergeant First Class Matthew Thomas, the training facilitator. "The intensity is really high."

More than 200 new Third ID soldiers are spending eight hours a day for ten days preparing, practicing and reviewing, making sure they all get it right. It's even useful to veterans, like Staff Sergeant Peter Lugo, who've been in combat before.

"We have a very intelligent enemy that's always adapting their techniques and so we need to be adapting right along with them," he said.

Soldiers learn to stay close to their armored humvees for protection, watch for improvised explosive devices, move quickly when fellow soldiers are injured and how to react under heavy enemy fire. A large portion of their training schedule is also about understanding the Iraqi people and the culture.

"It's considered an insult to use your left hand," said Sergeant First Class Thomas, "You never use your left hand in Arabic culture, to use your left hand, to shake with your left hand is considered an insult. (It is also) Like you never show the soles of your feet to an individual."

The training is a lot to take in, but soldiers said they're up to the challenge.

"I feel very ready," Private Thomas Martin with the Third Sustainment Brigade told WTOC about his first deployment, "very anxious, but I feel confident in everything that I've learned, so I think it will be very helpful for me."

Sergeant First Class Thomas said it is very rare for a soldier not to pass the training class, but if they feel a soldier is not ready, they're sent through training again.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com

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