GIs’ Hawaii training prepares them for year in Afghanistan
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The harsh, dry Afghan terrain is about as different as it can get from the lush, green Hawaiian Islands that the 25th Infantry Division calls home.
But soldiers say the environment won’t be as big of a challenge as it might seem.
“We do training on the big island [of Hawaii] at the Pohakuloa Training Area,” said Capt. Daniel Beard of the division’s 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment. “So, a lot of soldiers are familiar with its lava fields, no trees and high altitude.”
“We’ve mostly been training in the mountains of Hawaii and getting acclimatized to the area,” said 2-27th infantryman Spc. Landis Mitchell. Parts of Hawaii, he said, are also rocky and barren.
Beard said some of the unit’s soldiers have also trained in the California desert.
“If you’ve been to the National Training Center [at Fort Irwin, Calif.],” he said, “it’s similar, but without the change in altitude.”
This is the division’s first deployment to Afghanistan and its largest since Vietnam.
About 4,500 of the division’s soldiers, including the division’s headquarters, are in, or on their way to, Afghanistan. Another 4,000 soldiers from the 25th are on a yearlong deployment to Iraq.
Beard said they have also relied on 25th soldiers who have already made combat deployments.
Staff Sgt. Jody Allen of the 2-27th spent six months in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne in 2002.
“I just let them know to keep their heads in the game and to listen to their leaders and practice what they’ve learned,” he said.
Mitchell said he’s going to remember the lessons the unit’s combat veterans have been teaching.
“Mostly, not to give away the stuff we have or they’ll use it against us,” he said. “And keep your eyes open.”
Other 25th soldiers have already been working with 10th Mountain Division units to get an understanding of enemy tactics and the area.
“We’ve also got guys forward at [firebases] Shkin and Orgun-E … working with 1-87th Infantry conducting a battle handover,” said Beard.
Members of the 25th have also been starting to rotate out to firebases and are learning from troops already there.
“Our soldiers should know the enemy that we’re going to find, and defeat, here,” he said.