FORT IRWIN, Calif. - Fort Stewart-based Soldiers assigned to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division began arriving to Fort Irwin, Calif., March 30, and by April 12 more than 3,200 pairs of boots were on the ground, ready to march into a pre-deployment mission rehearsal exercise at the installation's National Training Center.

Upon their arrival, the light infantry brigade's six organic battalions quickly settled in at Forward Operating Base Ruba and began preparing themselves for the month-long training mission ahead.

The Vanguard Brigade's primary focus at the beginning of NTC was reception, staging, onward movement and integration, which is key to a successful mission for the remainder of NTC, said 1st Lt. Scott Johnson, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th IBCT executive officer.

At any given hour during RSOI, Soldiers could be found diligently working on their respective tasks at hand to prepare for their unit's combat rehearsal. Some Soldiers could be found working outside under the hot California sun, honing their infantrymen skills by conducting Military Operations in Urban Terrain training.

"Slow is smooth; smooth is fast," said Staff Sergeant Clarence Sillik, squad leader assigned to Company B, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th IBCT, as he observed his Soldiers' room clearing procedures from a cat-walk above the MOUT site.

Platoon Leader 1st Lt. Matthew Schmiedicke, Co. B, 3/15 Inf., said his troops began training within the first day of arrving to NTC.

"Things are moving fast," he said. "The Soldiers are learning doctrine and fundamentals to move on to bigger and better things."

Not all Soldiers could be seen in the high-action, adrenaline rushing tempo, but that didn't make their job any less significant. The brigade's S6 section was extremely busy, testing and validating all communications systems on the network.

"Things are going good," said Master Sergeant Larry Karns, 4th IBCT communications noncommissioned officer in charge. "Back at Fort Stewart we have more access for secondary means, versus here at NTC, we have to learn to work around different issues and facilitate the requirement. Things are always non-stop in the signal world."

Not all of the 4th IBCT's NTC preparations were limited to operations on FOB Ruba. For some Soldiers, a large amount of time was dedicated to transporting vehicles from the railhead at Yermo Annex, Marine Corp Logistics Base.

"The distance from the railhead to FOB Ruba is approximately 40 miles, and the minimum requirement for a convoy is 20 vehicles," said 1st Lt. Johnson. "Before the vehicles can be driven from the railhead, the vehicles go through an inspection to check for any maintenance issues and to ensure safe operation. The whole process from the railhead to FOB Ruba can take several hours."

Mission rehearsal preparations are scheduled to complete Friday, and the 4th IBCT will transition to "the box" where observer controllers will validate the team for their summer deployment to Iraq.