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Cpl. Ronald Bates talks with Spc. Daniel Smith, both of the 2nd Infantry Division's 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery, Alpha Battery, as they unload rocket pods at Twin Bridges Training Area on Thursday. Elements from all three of 2nd ID's brigades are undergoing evaluations during the next few weeks as part of Warrior Focus.

Cpl. Ronald Bates talks with Spc. Daniel Smith, both of the 2nd Infantry Division's 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery, Alpha Battery, as they unload rocket pods at Twin Bridges Training Area on Thursday. Elements from all three of 2nd ID's brigades are undergoing evaluations during the next few weeks as part of Warrior Focus. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

Cpl. Ronald Bates talks with Spc. Daniel Smith, both of the 2nd Infantry Division's 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery, Alpha Battery, as they unload rocket pods at Twin Bridges Training Area on Thursday. Elements from all three of 2nd ID's brigades are undergoing evaluations during the next few weeks as part of Warrior Focus.

Cpl. Ronald Bates talks with Spc. Daniel Smith, both of the 2nd Infantry Division's 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery, Alpha Battery, as they unload rocket pods at Twin Bridges Training Area on Thursday. Elements from all three of 2nd ID's brigades are undergoing evaluations during the next few weeks as part of Warrior Focus. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

Pfc. Sean Bennet, bottom, of the 2nd Infantry Division's 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery, Alpha Battery, unloads rocket pods at Twin Bridges Training Area on Thursday.

Pfc. Sean Bennet, bottom, of the 2nd Infantry Division's 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery, Alpha Battery, unloads rocket pods at Twin Bridges Training Area on Thursday. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

Spc. Brian Farrulla, of the 2nd Infantry Division's 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery, Alpha Battery, works on a Humvee on Thursday after days of sloshing around in the mud at Twin Bridges Training Area.

Spc. Brian Farrulla, of the 2nd Infantry Division's 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery, Alpha Battery, works on a Humvee on Thursday after days of sloshing around in the mud at Twin Bridges Training Area. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

TWIN BRIDGES TRAINING AREA, South Korea — For all the planning done at the top, a battalion’s performance evaluation ultimately depends on the muddy boots and steady hands of soldiers like Pfc. Joe Kaenel.

“Not everything is fought on flat ground,” Kaenel said, between unloading rocket pods in a bog with Cpl. Robert Bates and Spc. Daniel Smith of 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery’s Company A.

At any moment, Kaenel and the others might have to safely drop everything and react to a chemical attack, a guerilla advance or a cluster of civilian protesters. Or it could all happen at 2 a.m.

The battalion’s “training density,” the new name for what used to be called an external evaluation, is part of the ongoing Warrior Focus exercise.

Although battalion evaluations aren’t uncommon, it’s rare that each of 2nd ID’s Korean land brigades and its aviation brigade have units in the field for external evaluation during overlapping periods.

The exercise also keeps battalions that aren’t being evaluated busy.

The 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion sends military police, intelligence, communications, chemical support and others to 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry at training ranges and little patches of dirt throughout 2nd ID’s territory.

It’s also up to the battalion to provide opposing forces. They follow a plan, but they also react to 4-7’s actions.

“We see ourselves purely as giving them an honest look,” Lt. Col Richard Creed, special troops battalion commander, said Thursday night. “For them, it’s about making the best of whatever situation they’re in at the time. In that regard it reflects OIF and OEF (Iraq and Afghanistan).”

It’s also crucial training for Creed’s own soldiers because of the nature of South Korea’s abundant one-year tours. About 60 percent of the battalion’s soldiers have been replaced since his battalion’s major field exercise in December, Creed said.

“We want to re-establish training standards and get them up to speed so they can perform wartime duties,” Creed said.

Commanders say they don’t expect everything to go perfectly, but that the lessons learned from imperfection are the reason they have the evaluations in the first place. That, and the camaraderie gained from shared experience, are what make units stronger, they said.

“We’ve been in the mud for the past week,” 6-37 commander Lt. Col. Robert Hanley said. “Everybody’s facing the same challenges together.”

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