Published: July 23, 2013
Soldiers with Fort Carson's 1st Brigade Combat Team are living in triple-digit desert heat in northern Kuwait, working to keep the lid on one of the world's most fractious regions.
They're training with Kuwaiti troops, and small groups of 1st Brigade soldiers have traveled throughout the Middle East to build bonds. The goal is to build up America's friends in the region, even as revolts, coups and political posturing endanger the region's fragile peace.
"Our most important mission is the partnerships we make here," said Col. Joel Tyler, the 3,800-soldier brigade's commander.
As wars in Afghanistan and Iraq wind down, Fort Carson soldiers will find themselves doing more of the peacetime duty experienced by Tyler's brigade, which is halfway through a yearlong hitch at Camp Buehring, near Kuwait's Udari Range.
The soldiers have been training with counterparts from eight Kuwaiti brigades. They are honing the Kuwaiti military's skills and sharing tricks America has picked up over more than a decade at war.
They're also sending a message through the Persian Gulf region: Be nice.
"The visual image of American soldiers on the ground shows a commitment to our partners in the region," Tyler said in a telephone interview from Kuwait. "It provides a deterrent effect, I think."
Oil-rich Kuwait, a tiny nation at the northern edge of the Persian Gulf, has been a top American ally in the region since the 1980s. Its diminutive military is equipped with the latest American gear and Kuwaiti troops carry the memory of the 1990 invasion that saw their nation fall to the Iraqi army.
When the American role in Iraq ended with all U.S. troops leaving, the importance of Kuwait increased for the Pentagon. It's the lone foothold for American ground forces in the region.
The Fort Carson brigade has joined in training exercises around the Persian Gulf region and a massive live fire exercise at Udari Range.
Tyler said 1st Brigade soldiers have practiced with every weapon the unit possesses.
"This type of mission we are doing allows us to do a lot of different things," Tyler said.
While the Fort Carson troops are training for combat, they're also learning what life is like after war.
"This may be one of the first foreign countries they have been in where no one is trying to shoot them or blow them up," Tyler said.
The Fort Carson soldiers have the amenities American troops have become accustomed to in the Middle East. Soldiers have easy access to the Internet and telephones, and a full-service chow hall pumps out top-notch meals.
Soldiers are also getting the chance to enjoy what the desert kingdom has to offer.
Kuwait City is one of the world's most modern municipalities, with all the shopping and restaurants that could be found in an American metropolis. It's also distinctly Arab, with a famed and ancient street market.
"It's not all drudgery," Tyler said.
As with any deployment, soldiers find themselves with time to kill. One of Tyler's goals has been to use that time to build minds.
The brigade has set up Raider University, which challenges soldiers to use their brains.
The brigade's artillery troops recently spent days learning how to calculate the flight of rounds they fired. And they decided to test their theories.
"They built a catapult," Tyler said.