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Vanguard Brigade prepares to roll out to NTC

Apr 1, 2010

By Sgt. Robert Schaffner, 4th IBCT, 3rd ID Public Affairs

FORT STEWART, Ga. -- Soldiers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, have been working long hours to prepare thousands of troops and equipment for the move cross-country, where the brigade is scheduled to conduct its pre-deployment mission rehearsal exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., in the coming weeks.

Fort Irwin is one of the Army's largest bases, covering 1,000 square miles in the Mojave Desert, located just south of Death Valley. The installation hosts training exercises that simulate realistic combat scenarios for soon-to-deploy units.

"The purpose of NTC is really to give the brigade a final validation on our preparedness to go into combat operations," said 4th IBCT Executive Officer, Maj. Carl Bergmann.

After transforming from a heavy armored unit to a light-infantry brigade combat team in September 2009, the Vanguard Brigade began preparing for a summer 2010 deployment to Iraq.

"The units (started off with) preparing at the battalion level and below," said Maj. Frederick Black, 4th IBCT operations officer-in-charge, who explained that Soldiers worked up from individual-level training to company-level live fire exercises.

Combat preparation intensified in February when each of the six 4th IBCT battalions rehearsed a variety of situational training exercises during a collective, two-week operation known as Vanguard Focus - a pretest of the April NTC rotation, he said.

Approximately 3,500 Soldiers within the brigade will deploy to NTC for about three weeks and will be evaluated on their performance by combat veterans known as observer controllers.

"The one unique thing about NTC is there is a world class cadre that will be taking a look at us - kind of (like) outside eyes looking in on the brigade that provide us that necessary feedback to help us make any corrections we need to make in the short time we have between the end of NTC and our deployment to combat," said Maj. Bergmann.

For many Vanguard Brigade Soldiers, this will be their first trip to NTC and into the Iraqi theatre.

"I am looking forward to NTC, to learn how to interact with the Iraqi locals," said Pvt. Cody J. Wachsmuth, an infantryman assigned to Company C, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th IBCT. "It is something we need to know and to learn how to deal with for real life situations."

For seasoned Soldiers, NTC is another venue to hone their skills.

"I am looking forward to further medical and tactical training that I need to refresh myself and improve on," said Spc. Jeff D. Vaughn, a medic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment. "This will be my second deployment to Iraq."

Whether a combat veteran or a first-time "deployer," Maj. Bergmann said all Soldiers can learn something from the NTC rotation, particularly the brigade's new 'advise and assist' mission.

"(The upcoming deployment) is a little bit different for Soldiers who have gone to Iraq before, and especially for new Soldiers," he said. "If the Soldiers focus more on security forces' assistance versus point operations that we have done in the past, we will be a success at NTC and combat operations."

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