Guardsmen play vital role in training

Monday, October 13, 2003

Several Southeast Missouri residents are serving their country in Iraq through the Army Reserve and Navy Reserve. But, to date, one of the major National Guard units in the area -- the 1140th Engineer Battalion -- hasn't had a role in the war effort.

That is about to change.

To the doubtless comfort of their loved ones, however, their role will be an indirect one. A contingent of 110 soldiers from the 1140th Engineer Battalion's B Company, which primarily has troops from the Jackson and Perryville areas, is leaving Oct. 26 for the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., where the soldiers will be participating in war games for 10 days in the Mojave Desert.

It will be part of the soldiers' annual training and will last three weeks. The troops will train with the 1st Cavalry Division, operating as an enemy force against those soldiers.

The war games aren't a game in the sense of playing for fun. If the soldiers of the 1140th don't do their jobs well, the cavalry will be ill-prepared to meet the rigors of Iraq. The desert will duplicate the Mideastern climate, and the 1140th will act as the hostile Iraqis who have become adept at picking off American soldiers a few at a time.

Those Guardsmen going for training include combat engineers, equipment operators, cooks, vehicle drivers and administrative and logistical personnel.

It's a fascinating situation that a small Missouri force would be among those called in to help the 1st Cavalry Division, which has more than 17,000 soldiers and is the premier U.S. Army heavy-armored division. It includes three maneuver brigades, a combat aviation brigade, engineer brigade, division artillery and division support command. Additionally, it has an air defense artillery battalion, signal battalion, military intelligence battalion, chemical company, military police company, horse cavalry detachment and division band.

In short, it's a full army in itself.

And the men and women in it will be heading for an amazing training ground. The National Training Center is between Las Vegas and Los Angeles and offers more than 300,000 desert acres for Army and National Guard units to sharpen their combat skills.

Members of the 1140th say they're excited because, not only are they getting to help their fellow soldiers, they are going to be training in a different setting. In Southeast Missouri, they train in the woods, but America's current enemies are desert nations.

Finally, the equipment is all high-tech. The fighting will be simulated with the use of the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, which uses sensors attached strategically to a soldier's gear in plain view. If an opponent hits the sensor with a laser "bullet," the soldier shows up as dead. If a vehicle sensor is hit, that vehicle ceases to move.

This is a vital activity to maintain U.S. safety. Southeast Missourians can be proud of their own who are contributing to the war effort in a variety of ways.

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