KRIVOLAK TRAINING AREA, Macedonia - U.S. Army mortarmen got the unique opportunity to hone their skills on their weapons at the Krivolak Training Area in Macedonia this month.

Planning an event in a new area where training has not been conducted creates different challenges than a normal mortar range would.

"We had to establish everything," stated 1st Lt. Chad Libby, Mortar Platoon Leader, with the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division (3-61 CAV). "We were put into a position where we didn't have a range that is specifically cut out and dug out for us like one in the states. This gave us the opportunity to freelance a little more and decide where we wanted to put specific systems."

After spending months planning and preparing for this training event, it was time to put everything into place and get to work. The training event began Aug. 1 and will rotate mortar teams through the training over the course of the next 20 days.

"Some of these guys are really young in their careers and haven't really gotten a chance to do a lot of this stuff," said Sgt. Matthew Brown, a fire direction chief with the 3-61 CAV. "Executing a lot of it's been blank and dry runs, but to actually hear explosions and get the adrenaline going a little bit, knowing that a mistake that you're not going to make could be potentially bad."

Training is important to keep soldiers safe and mission-ready for when they may possibly have to execute in stressful situations.

"It's beneficial to the mortarmen that are training because being in a cavalry squadron they don't get to train as often as they would like, especially being in Kosovo," said Libby. "So this just gives us the opportunity to become proficient on our weapon systems more than just once a year or once every eighteen or twenty-four months, like the SCO (Squadron Commander) previously discussed earlier with us, so it gives us more time with the weapons system to become more proficient in our jobs."

It also helps Soldiers build confidence in their abilities as mortarmen.

"Repetition equals success," said Brown. "These guys be able to get back on the weapon system that they get paid to manipulate, it obviously builds confidence just to get the repetitions back in-shake off the rust a little bit and really challenge them as indirect-fire infantrymen."

This exercise was extremely unique in nature due to the fact it was held in Macedonia.

"It makes me feel proud," said Libby. "It makes me happy for the guys because they will never run across anybody probably in their military career that have fired weapons, let alone mortar rounds or any other Soldiers who have done a training mission in Macedonia."