<b> FORT STEWART, Ga. </b> Aca,!" The lyrical sounds of Islamic call to prayer echoed off the cinderblock buildings as Soldiers quietly filed through the streets and around buildings in the simulated Iraqi village. Then several bursts of M-4 rounds broke the eerie silence that had fallen over the sunny Georgia morning. The gunfire was followed by shouts and calls for a medic.

More Soldiers, also members of the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat team, came running, followed by a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. A wounded Soldier and Iraqi policeman were loaded into the waiting Bradley.

The Soldiers, members of 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division were at the combined arms collective training facility on Fort Stewart, taking part in urban reconnaissance operations training as a part of Spartan Focus, May 31. Also out that day, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd HBCT, conducted the same training on a different part of the facility.

The purpose of the training was to give Soldiers a chance to practice interacting with not only local Iraqi civilians, played by Iraqi interpreters, but also to identify insurgents and enemy combatants.

The exercise started with Soldiers entering the village on foot and making contact with the locals. Captain Arturo Flores, commander of Company A, 3/7 Cav., said the purpose of the training was to learn "situational awareness and ascertain what kind of people live in the town and where their loyalties lay."

Upon entering the town, Soldiers faced many different scenarios, including negotiating with local Iraqi leadership. As part of the exercise, Iraqi interpreters were brought in to play different members of the community, such as the mayor and chief of police. The role players helped teach Soldiers how to negotiate with local leaders and how to work with Iraqi security forces.

Steven Petrus, one of the Iraqi interpreters, acted as the local police chief, working with Soldiers on their negotiation skills. When asked about his favorite part of the exercise, Petrus said it was teaching cultural awareness.

"I try to make sure they know what to look for," he said.

Captain Flores said that simulating an Iraqi presence is a great training tool.

"It refreshes memories of how to conduct negotiations and trains lieutenants on how to do it right," he said.

"First impressions always count." said Capt. Aaron Vevasis in regards to interacting with local Iraqis during 1/64 Armor's after action review. It was one of the major points made during the review.

Abraham al Mawlood, one of the Iraqi interpreters, related a story in which an Army doctor had taken fire from an insurgent, returned fire, and treated the insurgent after he had shot him. He concluded the story with how much of an impression that act made on the locals.

Overall impressions of the training were positive and many lessons were learned.

"Soldiers are getting excellent training," Capt. Flores said. "Having the facilities and the Iraqis, we are getting great training."

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