On Guard: Part Two

By: Rick Flagg
By: Rick Flagg

Twelve hundred soldiers from the Florida National Guard are gearing up for war. The Florida troops have spent the past two months at Camp Shelby in Mississippi preparing for their mission.

In part one from the camp, reporter Rick Flagg told you about the concept of immersion training. Now, that training hits the streets both real and virtual.

Convoy duty is a dirty, deadly job, but the men and women of the Florida National Guard have some high-tech help preparing for their mission in Afghanistan.

Inside the semi trailers at Camp Shelby, you’ll find one of the most advanced simulators in the world. The entire crew of a Humvee can practice as a team. For a generation of soldiers raised on video games, this is the fun part.

In real life, that would have been a case of friendly fire: American soldiers would be dead or wounded. The hope is that every mistake in the simulator will prevent the real thing once these troops are in Afghanistan. Most of these soldiers have never been to war. They’re counting on veterans like SGT Ronald Williams of Cocoa.

“I’ve been to Iraq and I just got back last year, March, so I volunteered to go on this mission to help some of the guys out,” said Williams.

The training at Camp Shelby is almost done and the 53rd Infantry Brigade will soon be shipping out for Afghanistan.

COL Dan Zajac is a lead trainer.

“Every one of these soldiers will be ready to fight if he has to, but the real primary mission of the 53rd Brigade is to train the Afghan National Army so they can stand up on their own and take up the burden of defense.”

I’m just looking forward to going over there and coming back home, accomplishing a mission and coming back home,” said SGT Michelle Harrel of St. Petersburg, Florida.

And the soldiers of the Guard know their odds of coming back are a lot better, thanks to their 80-day rehearsal here in the woods of southern Mississippi.

There will be a formal departure ceremony for the men and women of the 53rd Infantry Brigade on June 24. The unit will ship out sometime later next month for a one-year tour of duty.


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