Operation: Preparation

Hundreds of Ft. Carson soldiers are spending the week in Iraq without leaving Colorado.

Elements of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team are carrying out operation Bayonet Strike in Pinon Canyon near Trinidad Colorado, but for all intents and purposes, it could be in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The title Bayonet Strike sounds official, but it's a training exercise designed to give soldiers here a very real look at what they can expect the next time they're called to fight.

All is quiet on a Wednesday morning at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Medina Irwin, Iraq. It is the ground the 3-61 Cavalry patrols with Iraqi counterparts, where they might meet anything from sudden gunfire, or a mother-to-be in need of a doctor.

" The people helping us out do a really good job. It's almost like getting flashbacks and stuff," said Specialist John Zapata.

It's all make believe. The woman isn't really pregnant, but the scene is real enough. The players speak fluent Arabic and just enough English to remind soldiers what they may find overseas.

"America bad. No Bush," some of them say.

"We're trying to prepare them for what they'll see because if we don't do that it's very difficult to learn those things on the spot," said Lieutenant David Stewart.

That means duplicating any scenario like visiting potential leaders side by side with Iraqi police and talking with local villagers who upon closer inspection look a lot like other American soldiers .

"We recently just got back so it's pretty fresh in our minds,' one of them said.

His name is Edward England, and he’s a First Lieutenant stationed at the Mountain Post. Many of the players are with Ft. Carson's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment armed with recent experience from the battlefield and an air of authenticity

"If it's not something you haven't seen or heard of in Iraq, we're not going to do it," said England.

Commanders know there is still nothing that can fully compare to the real thing.
Most of the soldiers know it too, and understand that while it's good practice it will be real soon enough.

"[We’ve] just got to get it right to go back again," said Zapata.

Bayonet Strike wraps up later this week. The troops will then spend a month at the National Training Center in Ft. Irwin, California.

Their goal will be to be deployment ready by October 1st.


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