Iowans: on a Mission -- Day 2 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowans: on a Mission -- Day 2

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CAMP RIPLEY, MN (KWWL) -- As about more than 3,500 Iowa Army National Guard soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan later this year, the state's annual training at Camp Ripley, Minnesota provides a sharper focus for the job at hand.

While deployed, members of Iowa's second brigade combat team, 34th Infantry Division will help with operations and support of Afghan National Security Forces.

They'll encounter situations that are a far cry from their civilian lives here at home.

Day two at Camp Ripley starts at 5:00 am.

Before they head away from base, it's a check of their weapons.

Then, we catch up with soldiers at an urban lane environment. That's a scenario to test what they've learned about the cultural aspect of Afghan life.

Soldiers will come through about three times as part of training. The first order of business when soldiers show up is to meet with the village elder. That's called a Mulla. Now, the trainings will only get more difficult as the deployment nears.

While the group and an interpreter meets with Mohammad the village elder, townspeople give their own hello to soldiers standing guard. Some are offering food. Some want to say hello or thank you.

Soldiers can interact but they must also keep watch because they never know when there may be an insurgent.

At Camp Ripley, these are role players who are Afghan Nationals, first-generation descendants, and others.

They take their roles seriously to give each group of soldiers a chance to get a feel of what it's like.

In this scenario, one man riding his bike is pushed down. Soldiers help give aid while getting information on where possible insurgents may be.

"Somebody pushed me," Role Player Steven Gebriaeel said. "I fell on my leg. Hurt. We see if the Army can help me or not?"

Meantime, the elder tells them an insurgent may be in a nearby house. They make entry and find the bad guy while also getting valuable intelligence from a laptop.

"When you're going in there, you just gotta stick to your basics and remember what they taught you," Spt. Jeremy Korver said. "It's a little nerve-racking but that's why we do this here - to train - to train for the real thing."

Later, we catch up with a convoy. They find a surprise. A roadside bomb put together by Hollywood explosive teams contracted by the army.

In this scenario, a soldier simulates an injury while others look for an ambush. They find an insurgent and shoot him.

Later, they set up a blockade. Afghan drivers can pass. Some walk and are upset to be told to be turned around.

Another truck ignores the blockade. It's all to see how soldiers react the first time they see it.

This will be repeated at Camp Ripley over the next month.

Once deployed, they'll also train at Camp Shelby, Mississippi and Fort Irwin, California before heading overseas.

"Culturally number one is completely different from Iraq so what you see here today in the training is an effort to start working that change so the terrain is different, the people are different, their culture's different," Adjutant General Tim Orr said. "So all the training we do is getting them shifted from one theater to another."

Of the 3,500 being deployed, many have been sent overseas in the past five years - whether it's Iraq or Kosovo.

"It starts making sure they're trained, equipped and led the best we can possibly give them," Adj. Gen. Orr said. "They're volunteering and giving up a year's worth of their life to represent this nation and our duty and responsibility is to make sure they're ready."

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