By 2nd Lt. Justin Bishop, 5-82nd FA Regt., 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div. PAOJuly 23, 2008
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - The long waits in morning traffic at Fort Hood, Texas, were easily forgettable as Soldiers from the 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, "Black Dragons," rolled out of their beds to conduct morning physical training on a soft sand road just a few yards away from their bunks in Kuwait's northern desert.
Some of the harshest sandstorms the artillery unit's previously deployed troops had seen welcomed the Soldiers to Kuwait.
Soldiers still enjoyed some of life's simpler pleasures when they weren't training under the sun. McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Starbucks offered a taste of home. Internet cafes and AT&T call centers helped the troops get in touch with those back home.
The artillerymen learned about the Army's Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected armored fighting vehicles designed to protect troops from roadside bombs. They also practiced the latest mounted patrol tactics during two- and three-day exercises.
"Being in Kuwait made the training more realistic and we learned a lot about how to defeat improvised explosive devices and explosively formed penetrators," said Pfc. Clifford Quinton, an artilleryman assigned to A Battery.
The troops also confirmed their weapon's aiming points and many of the troops got their first experience with operating in the desert. Soldiers qualified on their weapon systems and conducted reflexive fire training with M-4 carbines on a 25-meter small arms range.
"It was fun to fire a MK-19 grenade launcher for the first time during our convoy training," said Pvt. Justin Johnson, a native Alaskan assigned to the battalion's forward support company. "Kuwait was very dusty, but a good learning experience."
Adding to their combat training, the Black Dragon's learned how to treat theater-specific medical injuries. The training used mannequins that simulated breathing, heart beats and had fake blood that kept flowing until the Soldier correctly applied a tourniquet.
"The medical skills we learned were a lot more in depth and intense than what we would normally receive in garrison," said Pvt. Samuel Konecny, an artilleryman assigned to A Battery. "It seemed much more focused on our mission in Iraq, and the instructors were very knowledgeable."
The bread and butter of the short stay in Kuwait for the Black Dragons was a three-day Paladin calibration exercise. The heavy artillery that the Long Knife Brigade's artillery battalion brings to the battle is a 155 mm howitzer on tracks capable of laying down indirect fire from nearly any terrain Iraq has to offer. Similar to zeroing an M-4 carbine, calibration ensures the Paladins are able to effectively hit their target.