GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - For anyone living near here, it's no secret that area ranges play host to live fire exercises throughout the year. The loud booms and rat-tat-tats that quickly become just background noise serve as daily reminders that those ranges are back there being used.

Over the past month, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division from Baumholder, Germany, took advantage of all the opportunities offered in such a large training area.

"(The Grafenwoehr Training Area) has more ranges and variety of training areas that allows the entire brigade to train at the same time and place," said Capt. Nicholas Cantrell, the 1-6 IN task force fire support officer. "It also allows us to train our unit movement and deployment functions by rail loading, line hauling, convoying, and bussing vehicles, equipment, and Soldiers to Grafenwoehr."

The brigade used the ranges to complete a platoon proficiency exercise and a stress shoot.

The platoon proficiency exercise let the platoons execute missions and train together as a platoon, instead of individual Soldiers. To successfully complete the mission, a list of tasks had to be completed to a satisfactory degree.

Second Lt. Matthew Krog outlined the process of taking his platoon into the exercise.

"I'm taking my platoon into its first live fire (to) see how they work together," Krog said. "There are lots of variables thrown at us. We know there is a hostile area. Instead of shooting at everything, we want to work on making a positive ID, and this is something we haven't dealt with yet."

This mission was played out as if it were the real thing the Soldiers will experience downrange. They received intelligence on the "enemy," who were other Soldiers within the brigade role playing to teach fellow Soldiers how to deal with Iraqi citizens and possible insurgents they may come across. They were also informed of the possibilities of improvised explosive devices on the trail, and were given orders to patrol and clear the area.

Krog emphasized that one of the main goals of this particular exercise was to make a positive identification instead of being "trigger-happy."

"You have to have positive ID downrange. This being the first (exercise) is probably good for leaders to see how our guys react," he said.

The overall goal of the time spent in Grafenwoehr was to find a baseline and give a better idea of how the Soldiers of the brigade need to be trained. Krog related that many of his Soldiers are new privates, and many of them have not fired a live bullet with the exception of basic training. This training will give those new Soldiers the skills they need to be successful in combat.

"This training has been essential in getting baseline qualifications at the individual, crew or squad, and platoon levels," Cantrell said. "This is an important and necessary step prior to our conducting our pre-Operation Iraqi Freedom mission rehearsal exercise at Hohenfels."

In addition to adding in the practice of firing live rounds, the brigade also implemented some new tactics and added in another piece of the puzzle: coordinating the movement of mounted and dismounted troops together.

The mounted troops are those that are within a vehicle, such as a Bradley fighting vehicle or M1 tank.

Dismounted means that the Soldiers are moving on foot.

Coordination of these two elements is important in avoiding injury and for maximum effect.

According to Krog, his infantry Soldiers also benefited from training they received from visiting Special Forces personnel on the latest tactics, techniques, and procedures being used in Iraq for clearing homes.

The brigade used this exercise to become better prepared for their upcoming deployment in early 2008.

(Katie Cowart is a member of the USAG Grafenwoehr Public Affairs Office)