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Fort Carson brigade's training adds credence to reports of overseas deployment

September 24, 2017 Updated: September 26, 2017 at 6:20 am
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A member of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team hunkers down behind his M240 during a training exercise at Camp Red Devil in Fort Carson, Colo. on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. Bravo Company was assigned to part of the defensive line. (The Gazette, Nadav Soroker)

Officially, Fort Carson's 2nd Brigade Combat Team isn't going anywhere.

But, unconfirmed reports that the Army is sending the 3,500-soldier unit to Afghanistan next year gained credence with the brigade training for the past week as if an overseas battle is imminent.

On Sunday, Fort Carson invited the media to its Warhorse Strike exercise at the post's Camp Red Devil. Soldiers repelled a raid by mock opposing forces and maneuvered through mountainous terrain with tanks and Stryker armored personnel vehicles. The exercise began Sept. 17 and concludes Tuesday.

"As of right now, we don't have any deployment orders, said Lt. Col. Lawson Bell, commander of the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, whose soldiers played the role of enemy forces during the drills. "As a combat team, we are prepared to fight and win our nation's wars."

The ground-pounding infantry brigade is the Army's most-decorated unit from 16 years of war. Three of its soldiers have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest decoration for combat valor.

Going back to Afghanistan, though, will require more than leaning on experience. President Donald Trump in August outlined new tactics for the growing number of American troops being sent there.

The 16th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan is Oct. 7. While American forces have functioned mainly as advisers to Afghan units in recent years, Trump said he wants troops directly targeting Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.

That change was on display Sunday at Red Devil, a vast training area on the south side of the 135,000-acre post south of Colorado Springs. The brigade went through several scenarios, including an attack in a foreign city, carrying wounded soldiers to safety and recovering from a grenade blast. An exercise to evacuate noncombatants was canceled due to rainy, wet conditions Sunday morning.

Last week, the unit took part in an aerial assault.

Red Devil is next to the post's computerized urban warfare range, that simulates combat in cities overseas. The computerized range contains scores of cameras that record troops in action, allowing leaders to later assess them like a coach going over last week's football game.

"This is something that routinely happens, to test our readiness and to put us in situations that we are able to answer our nation's call," Command Sgt. Maj. Vincent Simonetti said. "And where we're called upon, we will fight and win."

The weekend training will get the unit ready for a mock war next month at Fort Polk, La., the final test before the unit is certified as ready for war.

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