Pfc. David Beaulieu, A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, guards a wounded civilian suspected of ties to the insurgency in Sadiq.

The Spartan Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, have returned to Alaska and begun final preparations for their impending deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.<br/><br/>Their commander, Col. Michael Garrett, said the unit was tested extensively during their rotation through the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.<br/><br/>"The Joint Readiness Training Center provides an opportunity to stress all systems to the breaking point," Garrett explained. "It is a Mission Rehearsal Exercise; we experienced six months of activity in a six day period. (The training) pushes people, equipment and processes in ways that can't be done at home. <br/><br/>"The other important benefit is the robust Observer Controller package," he added. "There are a number of professional, experienced Soldiers providing detailed feedback at every echelon of our formation. It is this feedback that allows us 'see ourselves,' make personal and unit assessments, and correct those things that are most important."<br/><br/>Garrett said the unit returned with ideas of how to do things better.<br/><br/>"There are a number of lessons that we learned, so many in fact that some won't be addressed any time soon," he explained. "Our standard operating procedures were validated. We learned that our procedures are sound, but our execution was lacking in some areas.<br/><br/>"This experience validated our focus over the last year - lethal platoons and squads will win this fight."<br/><br/>Garrett also praised the support the BCT received from Task Force 49 during the JRTC rotation.<br/><br/>"TF 49 was invaluable during this exercise," Garrett said. "Our leaders at all levels benefited from the employment of Close Combat Attack Aviation and planning for and executing aerial medical evacuation.<br/><br/>"The coordination required to clear airspace was important as well, because we are not able to easily replicate the same conditions at home," he continued. "Most importantly, we were able to solidify our USARAK team.<br/><br/>"Many of the Soldiers in TF 49 volunteered to support this exercise; they did so because they wanted to help," he said. "Maj. (Joel) Kain and the Soldiers and aviators performed superbly and with minimum assets provided a tremendous opportunity for the brigade combat team."<br/><br/>Garrett described the JRTC rotation as another in a long line of milestones the 4th BCT (A), 25th ID has faced.<br/><br/>"We have faced many challenges over the last year and we have viewed all as an opportunity to learn, grow, think through and develop solutions to problems," he said. "The weather (at Fort Polk) was a challenge. It was 60 degrees when we left Anchorage and 97 and humid when we arrived in Louisiana.<br/><br/>"Leaders at all levels took the correct actions to ensure the safety of their Paratroopers, without degrading the training opportunity," he continued. "The pace of operations during the exercise caused many of the challenges - it forced Paratroopers and leaders at all levels to make decisions and act quickly."<br/><br/>He described the training as tough and realistic.<br/><br/>"It is the best training in the world - it is real - it's Talatha instead of Iraq, but there were many times that I couldn't tell the difference," Garrett said. "Our Army invests heavily in these exercises: hundreds of native-speaking Arab role players, the villages, the animals and the media. <br/><br/>"The exercise is reflective of the importance that our Army places on preparing units for deployment, and commitment to providing the absolute best training opportunities for our Soldiers."<br/>

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16