JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Operations Group Alpha assisted in training the Texas National Guard's 36th Infantry Division for upcoming operations in southern Iraq. These citizen-soldiers, also known as the "Arrowhead" Division, will deploy to southern Iraq later this year. This is the last division headquarters scheduled to deploy to southern Iraq in Operation New Dawn.

The mission rehearsal exercise (MRX) was conducted by Operations Group Alpha, Battle Command Training Program (BCTP) at the Battle Command Training Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Based at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the U.S. Army's Battle Command Training Program prepares commanders and their staffs for warfighting overseas and in the contemporary operations environment. The exercise consisted of two phases. The first phase began on Oct. 18 and lasted two weeks. Following a mid-exercise assessment, Phase II started on Nov. 8 and ended today.

This exercise is historically significant because the Austin-based 36th will be the last division headquarters to stand on Iraqi soil. The 36th, with observation and training assistance from BCTP, has the mission of assisting in turning over 26 U.S. bases in its area of operations to the Iraqi government as the drawdown of U.S. troops proceeds.

The Arrowhead Division has a long history of fighting in Europe during World War I, freeing prisoners from German concentration camps in World War II, and assisting fellow citizens during natural disasters. The 36th is uniquely prepared to make this transition with the government of Iraq. As a National Guard unit, its ranks are filled with citizen-soldiers from varying real-life occupations and backgrounds which aptly prepare them to assist in transferring security and civil institutions to the government and people of Iraq.

The divisional area of operations will include Basra, in the south of Iraq, and facilitate the withdrawal of troops and equipment. As with previous Coalition units in the area, the 36th will continue to advise and assist Iraqi security forces, including the Iraqi army, police and department of border enforcement. Some in the unit have likened the period that the 36th is entering to the Marshall Plan which followed in the aftermath of WWII. The Marshall Plan saw significant U.S. technical and economic assistance to European countries in an effort to spur economic growth and political stability.

During the recent mission rehearsal exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the unit dealt with a scenario that included civil unrest, infrastructure and road challenges, reduced number of forces, interaction with State Department personnel, drawdown of forces, and stability operations, all while continuing to foster partnership with Iraqis. To better prepare the unit, the exercise involved the expertise of Iraqi role players and leaders from the 1st Infantry Division, the unit that the 36th will be replacing.

Maj. Pat Wentz, an Engineer observer/trainer for OPSGRP Alpha, commented about the role of the exercise in preparing the unit. "I was able to assist the 36th in refining their primary task of basing, infrastructure development, current operations and plans," he said, adding that he was impressed by the unit's innovation and tactical skills. "They have developed a great tool for tracking route clearance with their area of operations during this exercise."

Col. Jack Flowers, Commander of OPSGRP Alpha, expressed pride in the efforts put forth by every member of Operations Group Alpha. The exercise was the longest rotation in BCTP history. OPSGRP Alpha team members arrived a week prior to Phase I of the exercise, which lasted a total of four weeks.

"Their hard work to prepare the 36th for this historic mission will have a lasting effect in forming an enduring strategic partnership with the Government of Iraq," he said. "They did a superb job in executing the MRX and preparing the division staff here in JBLM."