FORT POLK, La. - "RPG! RPG! Get out of the way!!" A Soldier yells to his comrades in the Afghanistan National Army as they look his way, confused, not understanding what he is yelling about.

This type of scene played out several times as Soldiers from H Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) spent 3 weeks in the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., fighting through simulated gunfire, rocket propelled grenades, ambushes and improvised explosive devices.

Soldiers from H Co. or "Hard Rock Hotel," as it is affectionately called, spent their time in JRTC playing the role of Afghanistan National Army, or ANA, assisting Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division.

"Our purpose here is to role play the ANA and give the 82nd experience of working with coalition forces," said First Sgt. Keith Rickenbacker, the first sergeant of H Co. "The biggest obstacle is communication.

The U.S. Forces are learning how to deal with that communication barrier," Rickenbacker said.

The platoons were split up into rotations and each received a special patrol that they assisted with. In one patrol, the ANA helps the 82nd to take down a suspected Al-Qaeda operative. From there, Soldiers of H Co. experienced the effects of controlling a crowd, providing first-aid and reacting to an IED.

On another patrol, the ANA went alongside the 82nd when they came upon a suspected IED. After calling it in to the explosive ordnance disposal, the ANA were sent to search the area for enemies.

"Patrolling through the wood line allowed us to use our tactical training," said Pvt. Trey O'Brien, an H Co. Soldier. "By doing these patrols, I was able to get a realistic view of how to react and defeat an IED."

After calling in the IED, the convey took off and was eventually met with simulated RPGs and IEDs. The patrol dismounted and pursued several attackers. The JRTC spares no expense is making conditions as realistic as possible.

"The JRTC has a really great setup as far as making our Soldiers see what they are going to face when they deploy. The training is very realistic. They have a good team and this makes it all the more authentic," said Pfc. John Bodine, an infantryman in H Co.

Many Soldiers in H Co. felt that if they were the ones deploying, having the perspective of playing ANA has given them an edge. "If I were to get deployed to Afghanistan, I really have much more patience and understanding of ANA than before," Bodine said.

The lessons learned were invaluable, both from the perspective of the ANA and the U.S. Forces, said Rickenbacker.

"As ANA role players, you already know what is supposed to go on and when the unit goes through, you see if they are on the same page as you are. Sometimes there is another method that works," Sgt. 1st Class Jose Trevino, the platoon sergeant of 2nd platoon said.

Observing the 82nd and their tactics and comparing them to H Companies tactics was a great experience, said Trevino.

"We were able to see how the American Forces were going through the patrols and take the good, the bad and the ugly from it," said O'Brien. "The 82nd has a lot of different tactical styles. We saw a lot of different military occupational specialties and that alters how they react."

All the Soldiers from H Co. walked away with a sense of accomplishment and a sense of duty.

"I can say from being down here I am able to be a more educated infantryman. I can take that knowledge I used down here and use it throughout my Army career," O'Brien said.

"Anybody that is getting ready to deploy can have faith in what the Army is willing to do in order to train Soldiers," Bodine said.

The company redeployed back to Fort Myer April 19 and will be the primary company conducting funerals in Arlington National Cemetery, said Trevino, expressing the versatility of the "Hard Rock Hotel."

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