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Carson soldiers ready for war at Piñon Canyon

JAKOB RODGERS Updated: February 24, 2013 at 12:00 am

Seldom in two and a half years have Fort Carson soldiers trained at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.

They’ve mostly stayed at Fort Carson, making use of the ranges northwest of Pueblo to simulate battles between M1 Abrams tanks.

That’s expected to change this week.

Nearly 4,000 soldiers with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division are scheduled to begin a massive exercise this week at the 235,000-acre training area in southeast Colorado, said Maj. Chris Maestas, a brigade spokesman.

The training exercise — which runs through March 14 — is the first time an entire brigade will train at Piñon Canyon since 2nd Brigade was there in June and July of 2010.

This year’s training is meant to prepare the brigade’s troops for a far different threat than they saw during their last deployment to Afghanistan.

From spring 2011 through spring 2012, the brigade fought insurgents in southern Afghanistan while training Afghan soldiers and police officers to take over security for the country. There were no tanks.

Often, soldiers relied more on their interpersonal skills than high-powered weapons.

The training regimen scheduled at Piñon Canyon still calls for exercises involving the counterinsurgency tactics soldiers honed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But, in addition, soldiers will undergo “decisive action” training — preparing to battle a major power using tanks and artillery.

It’s meant to ready soldiers to fight against almost any situation by incorporating the lessons learned during the two wars of last decade, while preparing soldiers for threats that might emerge after the war in Afghanistan winds to a close.

“It’s a bit different, but it’s going back to what we used to do,” Maestas said.

At Piñon Canyon, soldiers aren’t likely to fire live ammunition from weapons more powerful than a rifle, Maestas said.

Instead, soldiers will be equipping their weapons with lasers — a version of laser tag that spans miles and involves tanks — to simulate large-scale battles.

No helicopters are expected to join the brigade, except if needed to evacuate an injured soldier to an aid station, Maestas said.

The exercise will begin with “cultural awareness” training, meant to educate soldiers on the historical landmarks in and around the training area.

Maestas said the brigade has tried reaching out to the community as it embarks on the exercise by meeting with the Trinidad City Council. Soldiers are also expected to visit a handful of schools in southeast Colorado to read to students during the exercise, Maestas said.

The exercise got off to a bit of a rough — and chilly — start.

The storm that snarled traffic across the Pikes Peak region last week delayed convoys of soldiers and trainloads of equipment in the days leading up to the exercise, Maestas said. The delays came largely during planning phase, and weren’t expected to have a major effect on the training.

“Its right in our back yard … but with the snow and the weather and the cold, it’s been a lot of work for a lot of people,” he said.

Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter @jakobrodgers

Facebook Jakob Rodgers

Seldom in two and a half years have Fort Carson soldiers trained at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.
They’ve mostly stayed at Fort Carson, making use of the ranges northwest of Pueblo to simulate battles between M1 Abrams tanks.
That’s expected to change this week.
Nearly 4,000 soldiers with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division are scheduled to begin a massive exercise this week at the 235,000-acre training area in southeast Colorado, said Maj. Chris Maestas, a brigade spokesman.
The training exercise — which runs through March 14 — is the first time an entire brigade will train at Piñon Canyon since 2nd Brigade was there in June and July of 2010.
This year’s training is meant to prepare the brigade’s troops for a far different threat than they saw during their last deployment to Afghanistan.
From spring 2011 through spring 2012, the brigade fought insurgents in southern Afghanistan while training Afghan soldiers and police officers to take over security for the country. There were no tanks.
Often, soldiers relied more on their interpersonal skills than high-powered weapons.
The training regimen scheduled at Piñon Canyon still calls for exercises involving the counterinsurgency tactics soldiers honed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But, in addition, soldiers will undergo “decisive action” training — preparing to battle a major power using tanks and artillery.
It’s meant to ready soldiers to fight against almost any situation by incorporating the lessons learned during the two wars of last decade, while preparing soldiers for threats that might emerge after the war in Afghanistan winds to a close.
“It’s a bit different, but it’s going back to what we used to do,” Maestas said.
At Piñon Canyon, soldiers aren’t likely to fire live ammunition from weapons more powerful than a rifle, Maestas said.
Instead, soldiers will be equipping their weapons with lasers — a version of laser tag that spans miles and involves tanks — to simulate large-scale battles.
No helicopters are expected to join the brigade, except if needed to evacuate an injured soldier to an aid station, Maestas said.
The exercise will begin with “cultural awareness” training, meant to educate soldiers on the historical landmarks in and around the training area.
Maestas said the brigade has tried reaching out to the community as it embarks on the exercise by meeting with the Trinidad City Council. Soldiers are also expected to visit a handful of schools in southeast Colorado to read to students during the exercise, Maestas said.
The exercise got off to a bit of a rough — and chilly — start.
The storm that snarled traffic across the Pikes Peak region last week delayed convoys of soldiers and trainloads of equipment in the days leading up to the exercise, Maestas said. The delays came largely during planning phase, and weren’t expected to have a major effect on the training.
“Its right in our back yard … but with the snow and the weather and the cold, it’s been a lot of work for a lot of people,” he said.

Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654
Twitter @jakobrodgers
Facebook Jakob Rodgers

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