BAUMHOLDER, Germany — There were, of course, the meat-and-potato training exercises: running raids, conducting security operations and evading roadside bombs.

But during the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division’s recent training in Hohenfels, there also was the business of keeping tabs on the home front and providing a steady flow of information back to families in Baumholder.

In the case of 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, a regular newsletter dubbed “Knight News,” chronicled the unit’s work during the mission rehearsal exercise at the Joint Multinational Training Center in Hohenfels. From lessons in Iraqi culture, to unit missions and interviews with soldiers in the field, the idea was to provide families back home with regular “news from the front.”

“It was important we communicated back to the families in this way. Targeted communication,” said Lt. Col. Rich Morales, 1-35 commander.

That practice effort will continue when the Iron Knights head downrange, with the “Knight News” covering a different company of soldiers every two weeks, according to Morales.

During the brigade’s monthlong training exercise, units worked to cover all the bases as they ramp up for their 2008 deployment to Iraq.

It’s been a week since the 2nd Brigade Combat Team completed its Hohenfels training. But unlike many brigades that deploy soon after their MRE, Baumholder soldiers will have more time to prepare, said Col. Robert P. White, 2nd BCT commander. The brigade isn’t scheduled to deploy until around March.

“Coming out of the MRE, we will still have time to be able to improve,” White said. “Overall, I’m very confident. It was the training we needed to get.”

After a brief Thanksgiving break, soldiers are already heading back to the field for gunnery training in Grafenwöhr, where units will be cycling through for the next several weeks. After that, there will be additional training in Baumholder.

This will mark the third deployment for the 2nd BCT. However, the brigade will be heading downrange this time with a new cast of leaders as well as many young junior enlisted soldiers.

While the brigade has its share of new soldiers, White said he’s not concerned.

“Junior, yes, but experience-wise, they’re much more experienced going in than before,” said White, noting that pre-deployment training has continued to evolve and improve since the start of the war in Iraq.

“Soldiers got lots of repetitions, which was good,” he said.

As for leaders, the opportunity to train with provincial reconstruction teams and “human terrain teams,” resulted in a richer cultural understanding, he said.

While there’s more to learn, “We could go now,” White said.

Lt. Col. Michael Mammay, commander of the 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, said the biggest surprise within his unit was how quickly new leaders came together.

“We formed a team there. One week into it, we got to where I wanted to by the end of the training,” Mammay said.

“The biggest benefit was working with my peers and understanding how each of us thinks. The ability to lean on one another,” Morales said.

Going forward, Morales said, the primary challenge will be incorporating new soldiers into his unit.

“I think as we get new soldiers in formation, we have to capture the lessons we’ve learned and integrate them into the team,” Morales said.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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