Iowa Soldiers Face the Reality of War
By Mark Geary, Reporter
FORT IRWIN, CALIFORNIA – The first group of Iowa National Guard soldiers are already in Afghanistan. For the past few months, troops have been training at Camp Ripley, Minnesota, Camp Shelby, Mississippi and Fort Irwin, California.
At Fort Irwin, KCRG-TV9 spoke to the soldiers about what they were going through before they flew to Afghanistan -- a place seven-thousand miles away from Iowa.
The desert and mountains of the Mojave Desert act as a beautiful backdrop for the National Guard's most intense and final round of training.
"The mountains are awesome. That's our view every day. It's pretty sweet to look at," Pvt. Cassandra Bridges said.
Staff Sgt. Travis Murphy said, "It's not like Iowa...where you see a lot of green around. It's kind of different, but also fun and challenging at the same time."
One of the best ways to prepare for war is to train in a place that mimics where you are getting deployed.
First Lt. Josh Tyrrel said, "The elevation, lack of oxygen in the mountains...you really feel the burn in your muscles."
Staff Sgt. Jacob Downs said, "Overall, our training has taught us some, but not everything, we need to know."
Soldiers who have already been deployed overseas say they try to work with those who haven't.
Staff Sgt. Jayson Mains said, "I try to tell people this is what you can expect...this is how it's going to go...You can't really prepare for real bullets. But, you can train to expect it."
Everyone knows they're about to enter a dangerous place. The reality of war is here.
Spc. Ross Donelson said, "Yeah, I'm nervous. But, I'm confident in myself and the others that are with me that we'll be fine."
Mains agreed, "Everybody goes through the fear together. We all, at times, have to talk about it to get it out in the open."
Scenic mountains and clear skies give soldiers a sense of peace and calm throughout the training. But, once they arrive in Afghanistan, similar scenery will act as a hiding place for enemies.
The military says all Iowa National Guard soldiers will be in Afghanistan by Thanksgiving.
It's a lengthy process to move all those men and women. There are more than three-thousand soldiers on the deployment. You can compare the process to moving an entire city like Monticello, Mount Vernon or Tama.