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SCHWEINFURT, Germany — All across Schweinfurt’s Conn Barracks on Wednesday, soldiers were packing equipment for Iraq, even though they had just returned from a a live-fire exercise in Grafenwöhr.

If ever a unit was ready to deploy downrange, it would be the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

Two months ago, the unit was told that its pending deployment to Iraq was indefinitely delayed because military leaders had concluded that the conditions on the ground had improved. Two weeks ago, official word came that the Dagger Brigade was headed to Iraq.

Had it not been for the two-month delay, this month’s Grafenwöhr exercise would have never taken place. But Col. J.B. Burton and his command team wanted to be ready when called, he said. Burton described how his troops transformed training sites into combat zones and open fields into cities — all during an accelerated training plan “beyond what most people would consider a reasonable amount of time.”

Without knowing how long the delay was going to be, Burton said his soldiers trained and retrained, setting up their rear detachment early so they could train along with them. Task Force Guardian, as the Daggers rear detachment is called, was able to contact 80 percent of the brigade’s 4,000 soldiers within hours of the deployment notice.

When a soldier died at Grafenwöhr early in the rotation, the rear detachment took care of it, Burton said. “It validated that our systems had been synchronized and could meet every expectation,” he said.

Not sure how long the deployment will last, Burton said that the focus is to be downrange for a year. For at least half the brigade, that is something the soldiers are used to. Brigade executive officer, Lt. Col. John Reynolds, estimated that 50 percent to 55 percent of the 2nd BCT troops who deployed in 2004 still call Schweinfurt home.

Two unanswered questions are where the Dagger Brigade will be once they get to Iraq, and what specifically they will do when they get there.

Burton said that while he’s waiting for the word along with the rest of his soldiers, he knows that the unit’s mission will be one of contributing to the security of the country and assisting in the transition to self-governance of Iraq.

He added that though some things remain to be said and some orders to be given, that “this BCT is extremely well-trained, has the best equipment the U.S. Army can provide them … and has exercised everything so many times that they’re fully confident and ready.”

A departure ceremony for Dagger Brigade is scheduled at Conn Barracks’ airfield for 10 a.m. Aug. 9.

With the deployment schedule as it is now, the entire brigade is expected to attend.

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