South Carolina Guard Trains For Afghanistan - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

South Carolina Guard Trains For Afghanistan

It has sometimes been called "the forgotten war". While the war in Iraq gets plenty of media attention, the same can't always be said for Afghanistan.

Still, thousands of Americans put their lives in harm's way each day in Afghanistan. Many are with the National Guard.

Troops from South Carolina's National Guard are preparing for a year long deployment to Afghanistan.  They're training at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg.

"Check inside her shoe," ordered the military leader at the checkpoint, "She needs to put her fingers in her shoe, all the way around to her ankle."

A couple from Afghanistan is stopped at an American military checkpoint. Despite the realistic feel, the entry point is not near Kabul, it's part of training at Camp Shelby.

"We're learning how to establish an entry point control. All the factors of setting one up, running one and doing searches on vehicles and personnel," said Sgt. James Bowen.

Attention to detail will keep these men alive. They'll soon be doing the real thing, half a world away. Theater immersion training is designed to get them accustomed to the Afghan people and country.

A makeshift village is designed after the town of Herat, Afghanistan.

"It is very important to make it as realistic as possible and often more deadly than it will be overseas. To make a worst case scenario training environment," said Bowen.

Along with security, physical fitness is a cornerstone of training.

"If you're not sure of anything, pay attention to the demonstrators," shouted the lieutenant in charge of physical training.

Guardsmen spend plenty of time working to improve physical fitness.

"I just think it's critical that every soldier be in top physical condition, due to the environment we're going to be operating in," said Greg Billings.

Competitive instincts help the guardsmen push each other to the limit. For many, the upcoming deployment to Afghanistan will be a first, though many have already done a tour in Iraq.

Dustin Merritt is preparing for his second tour overseas.

"It's completely different. It's not anything like they've ever seen before. And they need to take advantage of all the training we get down here and all the weapons system we get. And apply it," he said.

Application will come soon enough. After a few days off next month, these guardsmen will head to Afghanistan for a year long deployment.

By Steve Phillips

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