Louisiana National Guard at Camp Shelby, Miss.
Preparing for Iraq: 256th Infantry Brigade trains for year-long deployment
BY ELONA WESTON
CAMP SHELBY, Miss. — Soldiers with the Louisiana National Guard’s 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team have been preparing for what they may encounter in Iraq.
The 3,400-strong group has been training here since January and will deploy to Kuwait around mid-March and then onto Iraq in April. The deployment is expected to last just over a year. The soldiers’ mission, according to a National Guard news release, will be to “execute combat operations and conduct security and force protection operations throughout the multinational coalition, as assigned by higher headquarters.”
The training includes Iraqi cultural awareness education, convoy tactics, counter-improvised explosive device training, detainee search techniques, crowd control training and the utilization of Arabic-speaking translators.
Col. Jonathan T. Ball, commander of the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, told the American Press on Friday that soldiers began with individual training when they arrived in January.
He said the group has since transitioned to crew, or “collective,” training that involves working in teams.
Ball said individual training involved weapons qualification and marksmanship, including training on larger weapons like 50-caliber machine guns or gun systems that take more than one person to operate.
To see the soldiers in training, CLICK HERE.
He said the team training involves realistic scenarios like the one at Friday’s Louisiana National Guard Boss Lift, where soldiers were subjected to a mock ambush of a supply convoy.
Ball said the training events test soldiers’ reactions.
“And we’ll continue to do these type of events,” Ball said.
Ball said the addition of native Iraqis to training scenarios at Camp Shelby will help soldiers when they arrive in Iraq.
“It puts a realism that you just can’t replicate any other way,” he said.
Ball said the 256th’s mission in Iraq this time around will be different from the one in 2004-2005, which was a full spectrum combat operations mission.
“The first time the brigade deployed, the mission they had was in and around Baghdad, actually patrolling the streets — that’s called a full spectrum operation mission. The mission we have this time is called security force. Our primary mission is providing convoy security while all the different convoys are moving in and around the theater or in country,” he said.
Ball said soldiers’ missions will ultimately be making sure convoys get from “point A to point B.”
“If they do have some type of IED (improvised explosive device) attack or some type of attack, it’s our soldiers’ jobs to protect those civilian drivers and protect those convoys so they can continue to move,” he said.
Ball said that he was confident in his Louisiana soldiers — “the best soldiers in the United States Army,” he said.
“The citizen soldiers of Louisiana, for them to be able to give up their civilian jobs from being cooks or students or driving school buses and come put the uniform on and attain this level of training that they’re at, as a commander, it just makes me very proud of them,” he said.