FORT JACKSON, S.C. (TRADOC News Service, Dec. 14, 2007) -- Call it test time for the Soldiers assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment. And the test in this case, Victory Forge, is not to be taken lightly.

Just ask the commander.

"Victory Forge is a culminating event for training," said Capt. Kevin Tann, commander Co. C, 2nd Bn., 13th Inf. Reg. "It is where we mesh everything together that is taught in training."

The weeklong field training exercise began with an 11-mile road march to the 193rd Infantry Brigade's Forward Operating Base. During the week, Soldiers are put through a "run phase" of Battle March and Shoot, Mounted Combat Patrol, Night Live Fire and an occupation of the Military Operations on Urban Terrain site.

"We simulate what it would be like downrange to negotiate information with a village leader," Tann said. "Things start off peaceful, then it becomes a full-blown tactical assault."

This planned assault challenges each Soldier's critical-thinking skills, as well as his or her physical capabilities.

At 34, Rebecca Mercado-Ortiz wasn't sure she could keep up physically with the rest of her much younger fellow Soldiers. Not only did Pvt. Mercado-Ortiz keep up, the mother of two from Puerto Rico achieved the highest physical training score for Co. C, 2nd Bn., 13th Inf. Reg.

"I had a bad knee and a bad ankle but I kept with it," said Mercado-Ortiz, who scored 310 points on the extended scale. "I didn't let the pain get in my way. It felt really good to get the highest PT score in the company despite being the oldest woman in the company."

Mercado-Ortiz, a cook specialist, said despite the challenges of overcoming her nagging injuries, the biggest challenge she faced was not on the range or Victory Tower, but communicating with her drill sergeants and other Soldiers.

"Because I am from Puerto Rico and Spanish is my native language it has been difficult expressing myself the way I would have liked, but, all in all, this has been a tremendous experience for me."

Mercado-Ortiz is one of 140 Soldiers assigned to Co. C, 2nd Bn., 13th Inf. Reg. who will graduate from Basic Combat Training Friday, ending a nine-week journey which transformed them from civilians to Soldiers.

Pfc. Chris Bull, 20, of Fort Collins, Colo., who achieved this cycle's highest Basic Rifle Marksmanship score with 39 of 40, was made a student first sergeant for the company.

"I run the entire company," he said. "The drill sergeants tell me what needs to be done and I make it happen. It is definitely more responsibility. You really have to be on top of your game because while everyone else gets 30 minutes to do something, I have half the time to do it in."

With the end of Victory Forge, the Soldiers enter their last week in BCT, which includes out-processing, graduation rehearsals and, of course, the countdown to graduation.