FORT HOOD, Texas -- An up-armored vehicle crept along a soggy pathway spewing mud as it traveled. Suddenly, a target appeared a few hundred feet from the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle.

Boom. Boom. Boom. Simulated ammunition was fired at the target. The wooden silhouetted-target fell behind a small hill, which it originated from.

Clink. A mechanical latch opened and several Troopers quickly scurried out of the MRAP's rear door to tactically rush a nearby wooden shack.

Soldiers with 4th Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, conducted mounted and dismounted operations April 25-27 in preparation for their upcoming June deployment to Afghanistan.

The exercise served as one of three training events the squadron conducted.

Capt. Ronald Rice, the commander of Lightning Troop, 4th Squadron, said, "[This training] helps my Soldiers get a feel for what we may encounter in Afghanistan. A lot of the Soldiers in my unit haven't deployed before and this training just builds upon the skills they already have. It also helps get my Soldiers in the right mindset. Our mission is to ensure the safety of our troops as they advise the Afghan forces; we will provide the security element for an advisor team."

Rice said this will be his second combat deployment and his third overseas tour; he often offers advice to the younger, inexperienced Troopers.

"Situations can change in an instant," said Rice. "You have to be ready and prepared mentally to not only defend yourself but others as well."

Rice is one of many combat veterans within his unit. Staff Sgt. David Wall, a cavalry scout and squad leader in Lightning Troop, also offered his advice to his Soldiers.

"Train as you fight; I always tell my Soldiers to take it seriously because you have to prepare yourself as if you are on the battlefield," Wall said.

Both Rice and Wall said they look forward to deploying with their Troopers and unit.

"I'm so proud of my Troopers," Rice said. "My Soldiers have come a long way since they started training seven months ago and will do well with any mission they're placed on during the deployment."

"I'm happy to help train less experienced Soldiers, and I look forward to deploying with them," Wall added.

Once again, the training area roared to life as the dismounted Troopers approached the wooden shack.

Rat-tat-tat. Live ammunition was fired inside the shack. The Soldiers cleared the makeshift building and swiftly navigated back through the swampy, knee-high grass field returning to their vehicle.

Clink. The mechanical door on the MRAP shut. The vehicle rumbled to life and continued to traverse down the muddy road in search of more targets.