1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, conducts a live fire exercise, as part of the network systems testing, during the Network Integration Evaluation 17.2, July 14, Dona Ana Range Complex, New Mexico.

As part of the 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div., the major participant of NIE 17.2, 1-26 Infantry "Blue Spaders" not only are able to hone their craft but also get to experience working in a new challenging environment.

"It's an opportunity to train platoon attack in an austere environment and specifically in a desert environment which is different from what we have at Ft. Campbell," said Maj. James Vance, battalion operations officer, with 1-26 Inf. Bn., 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div.

With harsh terrain and high temperatures similar to what they'd face during training operations at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California or combat operations in the Middle East, the "Blue Spaders" can condition themselves for future missions.

"Fort Bliss offers a unique opportunity to train in a desert environment," said Capt. Robin Swan, commander, C Co, 1-26 Inf. Bn., 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. Being able to recreate the desert conditions in their training events makes their unit more prepared for the actual combat environment.

Furthermore, the battalion utilizes this opportunity to improve their platoon-level leaders and Soldiers skills during the exercise.

"For my Soldiers, I want them to be competent and confident in their weapons systems and their ability to maneuver and destroy the enemy," said Swan. It is a great opportunity for them to go through the platoon, all the way up to the battalion level situational training exercise operations and get after Mission Essential Task Lists (METL), which will define how they achieve success in the battlefield.

During this exercise, the Soldiers test and familiarize themselves with equipment they may see and use the next time they're downrange. The feedback they provide will help with deciding what the Army will equip future Soldiers on the battlefield.

"Our number one job is to provide feedback to the Joint Modernization Command and the Army as a whole on different radio systems that the Army can potentially be fielding," said Swan. "So we're excited to be able to train with those radio systems and hopefully provide honest, real feedback to the Army."

Along with their goals in support of NIE 17.2, 1-26 also takes advantage of their time by executing training that matches their unit METL.

"This is a great opportunity for us to build our live fire proficiency at the platoon level and then that will carry us into company and battalion level proficiencies, as we prepare to go to Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) in January of next year," said Vance. "This exercise fits nicely, as we continue to form the unit as we prepare to assume our assigned missions from the Army in the Spring."