FORT IRWIN, Calif.- Freshman U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., has been in Congress less than a month, but during his visit to Fort Irwin and the National Training Center, he stressed the importance of the installation even as Congress considers budget cuts.

Rep. Rigell, who represents Virginia's 2nd District, and eight other members of the House Armed Services Committee led by chairman Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., and ranking member Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., visited the installation on Thursday.

"What was clearly reinforced to me today was the importance of training, the critical importance of realism, making sure that the training is as absolutely realistic as possible and they've done extraordinary things here in making that a reality," Rep. Rigell said.

The nation is still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan and Rep. Rigell said he believes the Department of Defense needs to continue looking for efficiencies.

"I share the Secretary's (Secretary of Defense Robert Gates) commitment to that, but at the same time not cut critical areas like the training that's taking place out here to ensure that our warfighters are properly trained and prepared when we put them into harm's way," he said.

As the ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Smith said he doesn't believe the quest for efficiencies within DoD will impact the training center.

"The training center is critical. The requirements the military has are met by the training center," he said. "Now if the requirements change, the training center trains in a different way. We've got to make sure our troops are trained to do whatever we mission we give them, so they should continue to have the full support to make sure our troops are ready to go when they get out in battle, whether it's Iraq, Afghanistan or wherever."

After observing training with the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, which is slated to go to Afghanistan, Rep. Smith said the Soldiers are as well prepared as they can be for the combat zone.

"I've been to Afghanistan and the villages there and this is about as realistic as you can get in terms of preparing them for the environment they're going to walk into," he said. "This is the best training they could possibly have."

As the new chairman of the committee, Rep. McKeon said the trip provides members of the committee the opportunity to see the training that takes place at the National Training Center and also to get to know each other.

"We just went through a pretty tough election, and I wanted to make sure we continue the culture of bipartisanship we have on the committee, so I asked the ranking member to join me and come out to my district to see things that we have here and then we're going to his district," he said.