FORT IRWIN, Calif. - Soldiers from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division entered the final stages of preparation for their deployment to Afghanistan as they began training this week here at the U.S. Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.

After arriving on a number of flights over the past month the 1-25th began conducting reception, staging, onward movement, and integration, or RSOI.

The Soldiers worked around the clock to unload their equipment, set up individual tactical operations centers, and readied their equipment for the intense two-week exercise.

"RSOI sets the stage for [the brigade]. It sets the conditions for everything that follows and if we don't get this right everything that went wrong will have a snowball effect and it will impact our rotation later on,"

Lt. Col. Jeff Stewart, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Division, 1-25th commander said. "It's been going very well so far. Every day our Soldiers are out there making things happen."

Daily classes at the Army Center of Excellence on Fort Irwin provided many Soldiers an opportunity to hone specialized skills before entering the scenario-based training. Soldiers learned, through hands-on training, escalation of force, command post of the future, counter-improvised explosive systems, unmanned aircraft systems and robotics along with a large number of other job specific training.

According to Stewart the level of training the Soldiers receive at the Army Center of Excellence is unmatched.

For Pvt. 2 Nick Kindel, a Rineyville, Ky. native and a fire support specialist with Brigade Troops Battalion, 1-25th, the training was key to his understanding of combat operations.

"[The training] is more realistic than trying to read what to do out of a book," Kindel said. "I have a better understanding of what to do when we enter the box."

Although the Soldiers received a wide variety of training, aimed at improving their overall Soldiering abilities during the RSOI phase, they weren't the only ones getting "high speed" improvements.

Throughout the weeklong RSOI phase more than 300 of the brigade's vehicles were equipped with a counter-improvised explosive device trainer called the Counter Radio Electronic Warfare 2 training system. Once attached to a vehicle, the CREW 2 can be used by Soldiers to jam frequencies typically used to detonate roadside bombs and other IEDs, which continue to threaten the lives of Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The Improvised Explosive Device is the weapon of choice by the insurgents, it's cheap it's easy and it's the thing causing the most damage to our Soldiers and the Afghan population," Stewart said. "Our mission is to protect the population, therefore we have to counter the threat.

After being fully equipped with the most up-to-date technology, the Soldiers and their vehicles are now ready for "the box": a realistic force-on-force training scenario that challenges the Soldiers both mentally and physically over a two-week period.

Although "the box" is typically dreaded because of its level of intensity, Stewart said he's confident his Soldiers will accomplish the mission.

"We are all ready to go to 'the box' and start doing our mission. Our Soldiers are doing great," said Stewart. "We are getting this mission accomplished."

Stewart stressed the importance the rotation plays in the overall success of the 1-25th as it prepares to enter "the box" later this week.

"NTC is the closest thing we have to actually being there conducting combat operations," Stewart said. "This is our graduation exercise that will prepare us for our deployment."