3rd Brigade takes convoy to train in Perry, Ga.

benw@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 26, 2014 

Before dawn Tuesday, Fort Benning soldiers assigned to the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division joined a 20-vehicle convoy and traveled to Perry, Ga., for a series of Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercises.

Maj. Ellis Gales, a spokesman for the brigade, said more than 100 “Sledgehammer” soldiers made the 89-mile trip to the Guardian Centers, an 830 acre training site for first responders. More soldiers leave by convoy today for other soldiers to take part in the brigade-wide training.

Just about any emergency possible may be simulated at the complex, which allows operations on the ground and in the air during training.

Col. Charles D. Costanza, commander of the brigade, said throughout the week soldiers have conducted search and rescue missions, medical procedures and evacuations, and assisted U.S. citizens in need.

“Sledgehammer soldiers are getting hands-on experience that will prepare them to deal with a wide range of contingencies, which include disaster response and security missions,” he said.

To make the training as realistic as possible, Gales said soldiers weren’t notified before the deployment. Assigned to the U.S. Northern Command, the soldiers work with role players while responding to disasters and working with civil authorities.

“It’s kind of a surprise,” Gales said of the scenarios at the complex. “They will go through the alert and participate in the exercises.”

Costanza said soldiers have excelled during previous missions and deployments because of tough, realistic training.

“The missions we’re conducting here in Perry, Ga., are another example of great training that will prepare our soldiers when our nation calls upon us,” he said.

On Wednesday, soldiers conducted a search and rescue exercise. “We had a helicopter come and hoist them up,” Gales said.

Some soldiers took part in a test run last month during a Feb. 9 drill to deploy. Soldiers loaded baggage onto pallets, along with weapons and ammunition before a convoy was ready to move out a day later.

Gales said the exercise last month ended at the front gate and soldiers never left the installation. “They went to the gate and it was game over,” Gales said. “This time, they left out the gate, came down here and actually linked up in an exercise with people.”

This week’s training will validate the brigade’s ability to respond to contingencies within the U.S. Northern Command’s area of responsibility.

“If called upon to assist in the region, the brigade will be ready to conduct missions in support of interagency partners including FEMA and local law enforcement,” the brigade commander said.

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