FORT BLISS, TEXAS - Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment, Illinois National Guard trained with cadre assigned to 5th Armored Brigade, First Army Division West at McGregor Range Complex, N.M., August 21-28.

Observer-coach-trainers from 5th Armored Brigade train and validate U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard units as they prepare to deploy to a wide variety of missions throughout the world. Since 9/11, 5th Armored Brigade and units throughout First Army have mobilized, trained and deployed more than 1.2 million reserve-component troops.

While 1-178 IN is similar to other units that have deployed from Fort Bliss, a Mobilization Force Generation Installation, the training they've received from 5th AR has been as unique as its mission set. During their rotation 1-178 IN honed their skills in Counter-Unmanned Aerial Surveillance operations, force protection, aerial transportation to advisement missions and ground patrols.

"We try to coach and mentor them to be better units for their missions in theater, whatever they may be," said Capt. Nicholas Knepp, Officer in Charge for Team 4 assigned to 1st Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, First Army Division West. "Sometimes it's security forces, sometimes it's guardian angel or quick reaction force. Whatever those missions are, we try to provide training that makes them better before they go downrange."

Soldiers with 1-178 IN received notice of their upcoming mission last winter, and this will be the first deployment for some. Despite their knowledge of the impending deployment and steadfast training, it is difficult to make a substitute for experience.

"I have to learn as I go," said Spc. James Camisa, an M249 light machine gunner assigned to 2nd Platoon, C Company, 1-178 IN. "It's all new to me: learning the new standard operation procedures, new training, what we're actually doing over there."

Using their wealth of knowledge and experience as well as working with subject-matter experts currently serving in the locations deploying units will go, 5th AR provides relevant training across all six of the war-fighting functions. The scenarios units work through during their pre-deployment training is constantly being updated to address changes units will encounter in the theater they'll deploy to.

"I have outstanding non-commissioned officers on my team," says Knepp. "We're doing this probably every other month. Twenty-six out of every 52 weeks we're doing [cumulative] training."

Knepp's team is part of just one of 5th Armored Brigade's 13 training battalions.