FORT IRWIN, Calif. (KKTV) Four thousand Fort Carson soldiers are deployed overseas. In the next month, a thousand of them get to come home. Thousands more are training right now at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California.
The training center is like a dress rehearsal for what soldiers go through when they deploy. It's a chance to fight against an enemy and to work together day and night.
Loud explosions are something you hear often at Fort Irwin. Hot days, and miles and miles of desert sand, it's an unforgiving environment for Fort Carson soldiers — and for good reason.
"The whole philosophy behind this place is: experience it here, that you have the hardest day of your life here and you learn from those experiences, so that when you go do it for real, it should be a lot easier and our soldiers, we can bring them home safe and alive," said Maj. Scott Stephens, executive officer of the 1st Battalion of the 8th Infantry, of the 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.
Stephens is no stranger to Fort Irwin; his most recent rotation is his 43rd.
"That doesn't mean that it makes it any easier when you come out here," he said. "It's physically exhausting, it's mentally exhausting, but at the other end of it, we come out better; we come out with an extremely high level of training and proficiency. Again, ready to go tackle any problem that our nation needs us to do."
11 News' Katie Pelton embedded with the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. They battle against soldiers who work at the NTC all the time, to play the enemy.
"It's about the closest thing we can get to a deployment without, you know, going to Iraq or Afghanistan," said 2nd Lt. Elizabeth McCracken.
Mass casualty scenarios give medics a chance to practice. Small towns are set up to mimic what they would see overseas, complete with role players.
"It is much better that we come here, challenge ourselves in this environment, ensure that we stress every operational procedure that we do, so that when the time comes that we conduct these operations overseas, that is not the time for us to learn these incredibly important lessons," said Lt. Col. Jason Sabat, battalion commander for 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment.
Leaders say when soldiers train at Fort Carson, they can see the mountains and known they get to go home later. But at the National Training Center, it's a different world. It's the closest thing they can get to what a deployment is really like.
The training lasts typically about two weeks and it's supposed to be what 45 days in a combat zone might be like.
This is the first in a series of reports about life at Fort Irwin for Fort Carson soldiers.