For Army Reserve Soldiers, a 400-day order for deployment to Iraq seems like a long time. But in reality that time for deployment is even longer. Reserve units deploying overseas are required to complete a rigorous and time-consuming schedule of pre-mobilization tasks, both at Home Station and at one of three Regional Training Centers throughout the US.
Almost 80 Soldiers with Alpha Company (A Co.), 377th Military Intelligence Battalion (MI BN), Military Intelligence Readiness Command, are finding out just how much training is required as they finish up their pre-mobilization training at Regional Training Center " Central (RTC-C) at Fort McCoy, Wis. Though the days are long, the Soldiers find the time well-spent as they prepare for their upcoming mission.
"I know that I'm being trained properly," said Pvt. Eric Bryn, an Imagery Analyst with A Co.
"I know that any situation can happen downrange that's unexpected, but I'm feeling pretty confident with the people I'm deploying with," he said.
Units attending training for 21 days at RTC-C spend their days in classes and outside on the ranges and training lanes. Classroom training includes Improved First Aid Kit familiarization, Cultural Awareness, and combatives. Soldiers also go through M16 rifle and M9 pistol weapons qualification, convoy lanes and Urban Operations training. All this hard work is designed to prepare Soldiers for whatever they might face while theater.
Sitting beside Bryn in several classes is Spc. Juan Allegue, also an Imagery Analyst, who is looking forward to moving downrange and starting his mission. He thinks about that mission while he is training.
"What goes through my mind as I'm doing the training is what's going to happen once we get there…like what I'm going to be doing," he said.
As the senior officer in A Co., Lt. Col. Reuben McCoy, the Analytical Control Element chief, keeps an eye out for the Soldiers in the company.
"I see them starting to work together as a team," he said, after several hours of combatives training.
"I see the sergeants remembering and doing things sergeants are supposed to do, and that's good for teambuilding," he said.
The late deployment to Iraq is not lost on the Soldiers of A Co. They mobilize in July…only six months before US forces are scheduled to completely leave Iraq on Dec. 31, leaving a large portion of their 400 days on orders undetermined.
The Soldiers know that they could eventually be sent to another mission, such as Afghanistan. Or they could be sent home, which is what Bryn does not want.
"I was a bit concerned about being sent home early because I want to deploy for as long as possible," he said.
"I am hoping that when we pull out of Iraq then they send us somewhere else so we can continue the mission," he said.
"The uncertainty is big, and not knowing if we're going to have a change of mission after December 31st is allowing us to be flexible," said McCoy.
"We plan for the worse, and hope for the best," he said.