Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, have earned a distinction at the National Training Center - they're the first unit to train here for a deployment in support of Operation New Dawn.

The Army transitioned from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn on Sept. 1, 2010, marking a formal end to combat operations in Iraq. Operation New Dawn focuses on conducting stability operations and training and advising Iraqi security forces.

The training the 1st BCT is currently experiencing at the NTC has been adjusted to reflect the Army's new mission in Iraq. Instead of emphasizing finding and defeating the enemy, the brigade is also working on how they'll assist, train and advise Iraqi forces, brigade leaders said.

"There's more focus given to different lines of effort," said Capt. Matt Burch, chief
of operations for the 1st BCT's tactical operations center. "There's a lot more focus on the Iraqi Army and what they're doing and want to do. It's different and a lot more complex."

The 1st BCT, based in Fort Hood, Texas, has been completing training scenarios aimed at making the brigade's Soldiers proficient in the tasks they'll have to carry as part of their new mission in Iraq. In live fire exercises during the brigade's first training days, 1st BCT troopers simulated support to Iraqi security forces under fire.

"It's the best training we've ever received," said Lt. Col. Robert Rodriguez, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, which falls under the 1st BCT. "You can't replicate it at Fort Hood, not like this. The amount of energy the NTC puts into preparing us is humbling."

While it's not yet clear when the 1st BCT will deploy or how long it will be in Iraq, it is certain that the training they're receiving at the NTC will be extremely beneficial once they're in the country, Burch said.

"Since we haven't deployed in this capacity before, being able to practice it here at NTC and test our systems at each level of command - brigade, battalion, company - will set the conditions so much better for a smooth transition into that type of operations than we would have had," he said.

The 1st BCT began arriving at the NTC at the end of February, and will return to Fort Hood later this month. The NTC will host a second Operation New Dawn training rotation in April with the 4th Brigade,1st Armored Division based out of Fort Bliss, Texas.