Isle troops prepare
for deployment
to Baghdad

Members of the 29th Brigade
will head to Louisiana for training

More than 2,200 members of the 29th Infantry Brigade from Hawaii have begun final preparations before they are sent to Baghdad, which has seen an increasing insurgency ahead of the Jan. 30 Iraqi election.

After a holiday leave that began Dec. 20, the soldiers returned to Fort Bliss, Texas, on Sunday to prepare for their pre-mission exercise. That part of their training will be held at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk in central Louisiana.

Ron Elliot, a Fort Polk spokesman, said the last units of the brigade -- which are made up of another 1,000 reservists and National Guard soldiers from California, Oregon and Minnesota -- will arrive tomorrow.

Elliot said the soldiers will be taken to the Polk's North Fort training area, known as "the box," where they will be evaluated over the next 14 days.

"In a nutshell, we try to replicate here what they could expect to run into in Iraq," Elliot said.

The Baghdad-bound soldiers are headed to an increasingly volatile area.

Yesterday alone, insurgents bent on stopping the Jan. 30 national elections assassinated Baghdad's governor, set off a fuel truck bomb near the main U.S. compound in Baghdad that killed 10 and wounded 60, and killed five U.S. soldiers in three other attacks.

Elliot said as the soldiers train at Fort Polk for their Iraq deployment, there will be Army observers at every stage.

"They are there to provide constant feedback on what the unit has done, what it has done right and what needs to improved," Elliot said.

There are forward operating bases built like those the soldiers will man in Iraq.

After the exercises, there will be formal evaluations and reviews for key leaders and the staff of the brigade, he said. "It's the coach-teach-mentor method here."

By Jan. 20, the soldiers will travel to Kuwait for more training before departing to the Baghdad area, where they are scheduled to take over the area now patrolled by the 81st Brigade of the Washington National Guard.

The Fort Polk center is designed to sharpen the skills of light infantry forces and is one of the Army's two training areas. The National Training Center at Fort Irwin, in southern California, focuses on the Army's mechanized forces and its desert operations.

Hawaii Army National Guard

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