Camp Shelby helping train citizen soldiers for Iraq

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

CAMP SHELBY, MS (WLOX) - National Guard soldiers from the far West are busy training at Camp Shelby. More than 2600 troops from Oregon, Washington and Idaho are preparing for a one year deployment to Iraq.

"The pressure plate was a decoy to hoax you or turn you into one area, right?" the instructor asked his troops, as they made their way through an IED lane, "Everybody tracking? Let's move on."

Soldiers are learning to detect IEDs: improvised explosive devices.

"That could be something, that's an indicator right?  It's just the asphalt overlay on top the other asphalt," said the trainer, "But that's what we're looking for, anything outside the ordinary."

Gen. Mick Bednarek is with Division East 1st Army.

"We take that very, very seriously," Bednarek said. "It remains the number one killer of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, we work that very, very close and detailed."

The enemy is clever and resourceful, hiding IEDs in drainage ditches and setting them off with radio signals.

"Depending on the terrain out there, those long range cordless telephones can reach up to 15 kilometers. That's a very big distance for the enemy to be out there waiting for you to come by to detonate 'em," said Alfonso Yepez.

Along with learning to spot IEDs, soldiers also learn to survive roll over accidents in high-center-of-gravity, heavy armored vehicles.

"All of them have to get from point "A" to point "B" and to do that they've got to ride in these vehicles. So, it there is an accident or some sort of hostile activity, we give them the skills they need to know about how to egress properly out of those vehicles," said guard commander Anthony Scotto.

Check point security training is also a part of the preparations.

"A lot of personnel, a lot of equipment to ensure that the training that we're providing these great soldiers is absolutely relevant, it's current and it's the most realistic operational environment that we can provide," said General Bednarek.

After 45 days of training at Camp Shelby, these citizen soldiers will deploy to Iraq in early to mid November.

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