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Training prepares troops for deployment

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By Amber Coulter

Soldiers ducked in Humvees as an improvised explosive device went off in the trees to their left.

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The response was immediate, checking for casualties and securing the area.

Troops at Fort Knox were among those taking a training course simulating an ambush and instructing how to find IEDs during a patrol.

The lesson Thursday was among individual courses soldiers could take to prepare for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

The 6/4 Cavalry Squadron practiced searching for IEDs Thursday. Other members of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division also are training for deployment.

Members of 3/1 are leaving at various times, and not all units are deploying.

Troops from 6/4 Cavalry are scheduled to hold the first in a series of casing ceremonies accompanying their departures today. They are set to leave in the next three weeks for a deployment scheduled to last no longer than a year.

The ceremony is at 2 p.m.

The squadron is to work primarily in the area around Mazar-i-Sharif with the Afghan National Army. The German Army controls that area.

The 6/4 is charged with bringing equipment back from Afghanistan as part of a plan to draw down troops.

Some troops are expected to go with Germans to forward operating bases, while others are expected to work in smaller combat outposts.

Training consisted of several days of classes and activities that taught lessons such as typical enemy IED procedures, how to conduct casualty evacuations, how to throw hand grenades and how to communicate over a radio.

An element of preparation most important to troops is learning to handle IEDs, said Philip Mix, assistant planner for the squadron.

“The No. 1 threat we have on the battlefield is IEDs, and we will be doing patrols against enemies who are placing IEDs,” he said.

Examples of possible IEDs or other enemy activities might include a previously friendly village where no one is outside when soldiers arrive, he said.

Thursday’s lesson began with troops chatting around a couple Humvees until small pops and explosions sounded around them, sending them scrambling for the shelter of the vehicles.

Mix said it’s important to seek cover in such situations.

“You need to dive and cover and run as fast as you can,” he said. “Whenever they drop artillery like that, they’ve zeroed in on your position.”

Nearly as important as being able to identify and respond to IEDs is the ability to be good ambassadors to residents in Afghanistan and prove they can trust and depend on U.S. forces, Mix said.

“That, in the end, will build a better society and a lasting partnership,” he said.

Private 1st Class Tyra Guy, a cook, said the training taught her lessons about IEDs and approaching every situation with extreme caution and traveling safely in convoys.

Guy never has been deployed overseas, but thought she was prepared to go.

Assistant operations officer 2nd Lt. David Seery said the training was good and especially valuable to new soldiers.

“They covered the basics that we need overseas just to get comfortable,” he said.

Seery said confidence is vital when the work is more than practice.

“When you’re in contact with an enemy, you have to make split-second decisions, and if you don’t have that confidence, that’s going to stall you,” he said. “That’s where you get in trouble.”

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.

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