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Apache Team soldiers prepare to raid houses while a Bradley fighting vehicle stands guard during the training Wednesday at Hohenfels, Germany, in preparation for duty in Iraq.

Apache Team soldiers prepare to raid houses while a Bradley fighting vehicle stands guard during the training Wednesday at Hohenfels, Germany, in preparation for duty in Iraq. (Seth Robson / S&S)

Apache Team soldiers prepare to raid houses while a Bradley fighting vehicle stands guard during the training Wednesday at Hohenfels, Germany, in preparation for duty in Iraq.

Apache Team soldiers prepare to raid houses while a Bradley fighting vehicle stands guard during the training Wednesday at Hohenfels, Germany, in preparation for duty in Iraq. (Seth Robson / S&S)

Apache Team soldiers storm a building during training at Hohenfel, Germany, on Wednesday.

Apache Team soldiers storm a building during training at Hohenfel, Germany, on Wednesday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

Apache Team soldiers battle “insurgents” inside a building during the training.

Apache Team soldiers battle “insurgents” inside a building during the training. (Seth Robson / S&S)

Soldiers take out a pair of insurgents guarding stairs during the training.

Soldiers take out a pair of insurgents guarding stairs during the training. (Seth Robson / S&S)

HOHENFELS, Germany — The 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team starts its mission-rehearsal exercise this week in preparation for this year’s deployment to Iraq.

The 2nd BCT soldiers, who have trained at Grafenwöhr for the last few weeks, were officially notified Monday about the Iraq deployment, although the troops have been aware of it for some time.

The exercise, which runs until March 12, will involve 3,300 combat team soldiers and about 1,000 role players to include German civilians and soldiers from 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, according to Joint Multinational Readiness Center observer controller Maj. Scott Nauman.

Eleven Military Operations in Urban Terrain sites at Hohenfels will become notional Iraqi towns and cities for the exercise. The civilian role players will speak German, communicating with soldiers through translators in the same way Arabic-speaking Iraqis will interact with forces in Iraq, said Nauman, 33.

“We do everything we can to replicate the situation in Iraq,” he said.

On Tuesday, soldiers from Task Force 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment — one of three task forces that make up 2nd BCT — were preparing for the exercise by raiding the Raversdorf MOUT site, which stands in for the Iraqi city of Tikrit.

Task Force Commander Lt. Col. Eric Schacht, 41, of Glen Mills, Pa., said his unit received intelligence over several weeks in the buildup to the exercise.

“I think it will be an outstanding opportunity to work through battle rhythms,” said Schacht, who commanded Task Force 1-26 on a deployment to Iraq from February 2004 to March 2005.

Almost half the soldiers in the unit are veterans of that earlier mission. This exercise will help assimilate 30 percent of the 1-26 soldiers who have joined the battalion in the last three months, he said.

The task force chose Apache Team — which combines infantry from Company A, 1-26 and tanks from Company B, 1st Battalion, 77th Armored Regiment — for the raid on “Tikrit.”

During the raid, the action was fast and furious with soldiers kicking in doors and role players firing at their attackers. At the height of the battle, sirens on a half dozen soldiers’ and role players’ laser training gear screamed to signal they had been “killed in action.”

Apache Team Commander Capt. Adam Wojack, 40, of Santa Rosa, Calif., said the mission went well. Despite losing five of his men, several insurgents were killed and a “high-value target” captured.

“This is the first time we have done a cordon and search at company level. The tanks did a great job (setting cordons around the MOUT site) and the assault force was ready to go,” said Wojack, who worked as a liaison officer with Iraqi commandos the last time the unit was in Iraq.

Pvt. Ryan Owens, 19, of Des Moines, Iowa, was a Squad Automatic Weapon gunner with an assault team during the training. He entered a target house after other soldiers had kicked in the door.

“The first assault team had taken casualties. I saw a bad guy on the stairs and got him,” he said.

Owens, who joined the Army a year ago and came to 1-26 in December, said he was looking forward to the exercise and the Iraq mission.

“It’s why I joined the Army,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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