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Thousands of Iowans training at Camp Ripley with U.S. Army National Guard

Camp Ripley in Little Falls, Minn. covers more than 82 square miles. More than 54 of those...
Camp Ripley in Little Falls, Minn. covers more than 82 square miles. More than 54 of those square miles is dedicated to combat scenarios. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Jul. 26, 2019 at 9:09 PM CDT
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Many Iowa National Guard members have been busy this week training for possible combat assignments in the future.

Their training is taking place at Camp Ripley in central Minnesota, and this week, TV9's Aaron Scheinblum was embedded with those soldiers to get a look at what goes into that training.

For all of those soldiers training, they were spending up to three weeks leaving their jobs at home behind to accept a different job.

It did not take long to realize this time away from work was nowhere near considered a vacation- these soldiers were still working and with serious implications. The goal is to be as prepared as possible if and when they are sent into a combat situation.

Spanning more than 50 square miles, there are thousands in the U.S. Army National Guard protecting the land and planning their next move.

For Capt. Christian Albrecht, who leads A Company for the 133rd Infantry out of Dubuque, Iowa, the responsibility is a dream come true.

"In order for us to have the confidence to conduct our missions real-life, we have to train as close as possible to the real scenario as we can get," Capt. Albrecht said.

It's all a part of a training exercise called eXportable Combat Training Capability, or XCTC. While the situations are not "real," they are preparing as if it is.

"We're fully immersed in a combat environment and we're doing all of the things that an infantry combat brigade would do," said Col. Derek Adams, who leads the 2nd Brigade from the 34th Infantry out of Iowa City, Iowa.

When not aiming at targets, firing with live ammunition, they are searching for rivals. For this exercise, those rivals are fellow members of the Guard.

But that does not make things any easier.

"We don't know how they're planning," Capt. Albrecht said. "We try to predict it the best we can, but all of that just enables us to be a lot more proficient at our job."

The entire facility spans 53,000 acres- that's more than 82 square miles. 35,000 of those acres are specifically for training and combat scenarios. All of that space makes a big difference for preparation, which could lead to fewer casualties and hopefully perfection in a battle situation.

"The more we train, the better we become at our tasks and that means we keep more of our soldiers alive and safe," Col. Adams said.

Meaning for the thousands of Iowans out training, the trip up the Mississippi River is pivotal.

"All kinds of small pieces fit together to make a big thing work," Col. Adams said.

TV9 will have two more stories from Camp Ripley coming up next week.