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About 100 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment’s Company A from Hohenfels, Germany, will head to Afghanistan next week to provide security and support for that country’s upcoming presidential election.

It’s the first time the unit has deployed since 1943, when 1-4 soldiers helped drive Japanese forces from the Aleutian Islands.

The unit’s infantrymen rarely deploy because of their vital role in training Army units in Europe, but they are ready to go, said Capt. Jacob Larkowich, commander of the 1-4’s Company A.

Since 1990, the unit has been the opposing force at the Combat Maneuver Training Center, which lately has provided mission rehearsal training for U.S. Army units deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq.

“I’m confident that the soldiers are ready to do anything,” Larkowich said in a telphone interview. “Although they are designated OPFOR [opposing force] for units training here, they get the same training as other infantrymen.”

While the battalion’s soldiers and families don’t expect to deploy, they know the possibility is there.

“The expectation is for us to be here training the force,” said Staff Sgt. Steven Cornett, a squad leader in 2nd Platoon. “But we’re a full-up infantry unit. If we are called, we go.”

The deployment may not have as much of an effect on the soldiers’ families. The 1-4’s soldiers typically live in the training center’s “box” when other units come to train. Often, there are back-to-back training rotations, meaning 1-4 soldiers might see their families for only a couple of days over a few months, Larkowich said.

“The families are taking it real well … and the Family Readiness Group has been very active,” he said. “These families are used to the soldiers being in the field and being gone a lot.”

The soldiers, such as Pfc. Mark Drehobl, also seem to be taking it well.

“I’m excited about going; I’ll get to see more of the world,” said Drehobl, a medic who will be going on his first deployment. “That’s one of the reasons I requested being stationed overseas, to see the world.”

Drehobl said he trained with the soldiers who are deploying, but also went through separate medical training with the element’s other two medics who are deploying.

The deployment training turned the tables on these soldiers who act as the “enemy” for units rotating through the center.

“The training was pretty challenging, but for us it was just seeing it from the other side,” Cornett said. “We’ve all handled the OPFOR mission and understand that role. This was just reversing it.

“We were able to call up our knowledge of lessons learned from units rotating through, and that helped,” Cornett said.

And, although the training battalion is losing one of its companies on the deployment, three other companies remain to train units at the CMTC, including the Southern European Task Force, which rotates through from Monday through Oct. 13.

“Only one company is leaving, so CMTC will continue to provide its world-class OPFOR,” said Maj. Mike Durham, 7th Army Training Command spokesman. “The training for SETAF and other units will not be diminished at all.”


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