There may be fewer palm trees and flowers on Fort Irwin than in Hawaii, but for Soldiers of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, that's a good thing.

"The environment here is so close to Afghanistan, it really gives them good training," said Maj. Pat Stitch, the brigade's operations officer.

More than 5,000 Soldiers from 3rd Brigade are currently training for a 12-month deployment in the National Training Center's facilities commonly known as "the box." The brigade, whose home station is Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, is set to deploy to Afghanistan this spring, where its mission will be to provide civil security and to assist in the development of the Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan government.

The 3rd Brigade's time at the NTC will be instrumental in its success in theater, Stitch said.

"The scenarios are very similar to daily occurrences in Afghanistan," he said. "It really teaches you to be adaptable. It takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you think outside the box. That's definitely a good thing."

The 3rd Brigade isn't the only rotational training unit at the NTC this month. Several other units are here supporting the 3rd Brigade and preparing for their own deployments, including elements of the 3rd Special Forces Group, 14th Engineer Battalion and the 54th and 58th Military Police Companies.

The 14th Engineer Battalion, based out of Fort Lewis, Wash., is slated to deploy to Afghanistan this summer. The battalion's main mission will be to provide route clearance - the same assignment it has been practicing at the NTC.

"I think this place really fits the theater we're going to," said Command Sgt. Maj. Douglas Padgett, the battalionAca,!a,,cs command sergeant major. "They've done a good job of making sure of that."

Many of the Soldiers in the 3rd Brigade and the 14th Engineer Battalion are preparing for what will be their first deployment. Pvt. Eric Avina, a native of Riverside, Calif., is experiencing his first NTC rotation.

"It's good training," he said. "You get a feel for the real live thing. We're definitely going to be better prepared to go downrange."

Both Stitch and Padgett said the biggest training challenge for their units is preparing new Soldiers and leaders for the demands of a deployment to Afghanistan. But both expressed confidence that their NTC training would help them overcome that challenge.

"The chance to acclimatize out here before we deploy is probably the biggest benefit (of the NTC)," Stitch said.

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