Cedar Rapids Weather
FORT IRWIN, CALIFORNIA – About 3,000 Iowa National Guard soldiers are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan right now at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. Many are sleeping on cots in large tents with more than one-hundred other people, eating every meal together and sharing community bathrooms.
They'll spend an entire year living together in close quarters with little or no privacy. A break from the vigorous training at Fort Irwin does not mean soldiers get a break from each other.
"Sometimes they irritate you, but for the most part, everyone's getting really close. You can't help but get close," Spc. Neal Sauerberg, 27, of Galena, IL, and serving with the 1-133 HHC said. "Each person has their own degree to which they need to be by themselves. People who really need to be by themselves stay up late or maybe go for a long run by themselves."
See more from Mark's trip to California in the Enduring Freedom section.
By becoming battle buddies and sharing their ups and downs, soldiers create a family.
"We're all brothers and we all look out for each other. We know when someone's not feeling right or not feeling their best or missing home," Spc. Dan Kline, 26, of Des Moines, and serving with the 1-133 HHC said. "We're leaving for a year. We won't get to see our friends or family. These guys become our friends and family."
Just like any siblings, sometimes the men and women need to spend some time alone.
"I pass the time reading, writing and listening to my iPod," Pfc. Aaron McNew, 21, of Gladbrook-Reinbeck, and serving with the 1-133 HHC said.
Spc. Kyle Kuehl, 20, of Davenport, and serving with the 1-133 HHC, said, "I'm getting close to finishing my first book in about six years."
At previous training facilities like Camp Ripley, Minnesota and Camp Shelby, Mississippi, soldiers often escaped the stresses of the military by calling their friends or family or sending them an email. However, while they're training at Ft. Irwin, soldiers are not allowed to use cell phones or computers.
The military says the communication cut-off forces troops to focus on training and building those relationships with each other.