HOHENFELS, Germany — For the soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, the halfway point of their time at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center has passed, but the action continues to move at a blistering pace.

For the brigade’s troops in the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, for example, Thursday was a wildly busy day of roadside bombs, ambushes and casualties.

Since Nov. 11, 12 of the unit’s soldiers have been “killed” in action and another 23 “wounded” during the course of a mission rehearsal exercise (MRE) in Hohenfels.

The training is designed to cram a lot of action into a condensed period of time in an effort to prepare the brigade for an early 2008 deployment to Iraq.

“The soldiers in my platoon feel like everything they’ve done here has been worth something,” said Staff Sgt. Adam Martin of Company A’s 1st Platoon.

Many of the Company A soldiers have been tasked with securing and rooting out terrorists in a reconstruction of Samarra, which has proved to be a volatile hotbed during the 2nd Brigade’s MRE.

On Thursday, after a busy morning, 2-6 soldiers spent the afternoon in classrooms to chart their progress. It was a brief reprieve from the battlefield, which was alive again in the evening.

In one classroom, noncommissioned officers and officers from Company A discussed the situation at one of their problem areas.

“What do you think of Samarra?” asked Capt. Jeff Barta, a JMRC observer who has been monitoring the company’s performance. “What’s the enemy doing to us there?”

“Kicking our ass,” was one response.

From sectarian hostilities to uncooperative locals, the unit has struggled to gain intelligence in the hotbed. And roadside bombs are detonating with regularity.

“IED detection, we’re sucking on that. A lot of catastrophic errors,” Capt. Richard Phillips, commander of company A, said during the after-action review.

In certain cases, such as finding above-ground IEDs, taking basic precautions can help, he said.

“If you slow down it’s pretty easy to spot them,” Phillips said. “They can’t camouflage them perfect.”

Some positives: About 100 land mines have been detected within three days along with numerous enemy weapons, he said.

Lt. Col. Michael Shrout, the 2-6 commander, said the unit will walk away from the exercise with a more precise sense of strengths and weaknesses, which will continue to be worked on after the exercise ends Wednesday.

After the MRE, “We’ll be more ready to go. But we don’t stop training. We don’t stop training even after we get there,” Shrout said.

If performance is measured by keeping casualties and roadside bomb hits to a minimum, Martin said he feels good about his platoon’s effort.

“By that measure, you’d have to say we’ve done very well,” he 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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