FORT IRWIN, Calif. - Dust rolls into the air as four Humvees race up to a small town in the desert. When they stopped, eight Soldiers in full-battle dress filed out with weapons in hand and lined up on the gate leading into the town.

The Soldiers are part of Red Platoon, Dragon Company, 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, from Fort Hood, Texas, training at the U.S. Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.

The training conducted May 22 was a company-level convoy live-fire exercise, which is part of their preparation for an upcoming deployment to Iraq.

"NTC is that culmination event where we get to put together all of our training right before the final plunge into Iraq," said 2nd Lt. Kevin A. Garcia, an armor officer with Dragon Co.

The 3rd ACR is scheduled to deploy later this summer to Iraq where their mission will be to advise and assist Iraqi Security Forces as well as support the Provincial Reconstruction Teams to improve civil capacity in the Ghazi and Laylan Provinces.

"Our mission is kind of hybrid," said Garcia, a Colorado Springs, Colo., native. "It's not all combat. The majority of it is assist and support."

Pfc. Sean D. Maxwell, an armor crewman with Dragon Co., said that sometimes assist and support means going in and clearing out a town of any anti-Iraqi government forces with the ISF.

The day's live-fire exercise was unique because it involved so many different battlefield assets. The exercise included: ground troops to clear buildings, mounted troops to encircle the villages, fire support observers to call in live artillery fire, medics to evacuate any casualties and two tanks to provide heavy fire power at ground level.

"Today's training will help us with the worst case scenario as far as us having to take the fight to the enemy," said Garcia.

The range was broken into two parts.

Red Platoon first cleared a small village and set up overwatch with a combat observation laser team (COLT).

"The COLT can call in indirect fire from our artillery should we start taking too many casualties or get overrun by the enemy," said Maxwell, a Bridgewater-Rariton, N.J., native.

The overwatch allowed the main body of the company to move down the range and clear a second, and larger village.

Dragon Co. conducted three full runs through the live-fire range during the daytime. The first two runs were with blank ammunition and the third was with live rounds.

"It's good training," said Maxwell. "I love being in the field."

At night, the unit went back onto the range and ran a fourth round using blank ammunition.

"Red Platoon performed admirably," said Garcia. "We're right where we need to be at this point."