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Fort Drum soldiers ready for Mountain Peak exercise

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FORT DRUM — For members of the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, the Mountain Peak exercise starting today will be a chance to get ready for a potential deployment later this year.

Last year, the 3rd Brigade, which recently had returned from deployment, served in an overseeing role to members of the 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams, who were readying to leave for Afghanistan. This year, the 3rd Brigade’s soldiers will be among the active trainees.

“I think it’s going to be a tremendous workout on our end,” said Col. Samuel E. Whitehurst, the brigade’s commander.

Thousand of soldiers from all levels and brigades across the division will take part in the exercise, which runs until April 24. Soldiers will be put through live-fire combat training designed to simulate the types of situations they may encounter overseas.

“This is a complete division and installation military and civilian team effort,” Col. Whitehurst said.

Last year’s exercise, taking place about a month after Col. Whitehurst took the command post, taught him the value of platoon- and company-level live-fire exercises, which he said better prepared soldiers for their work overseas.

“I realized when I have a leader that can integrate helicopter support, when he or she can direct live fires and can synchronize those in terms of time and space, I’m pretty sure I have a leader that can handle anything when they go to Afghanistan,” he said.

The exercise also will be an opportunity for the brigade to train its security force advise and assist teams, which Col. Whitehurst said were formed within the past few weeks. Among the tasks the soldier teams will face are training with role players to help develop their knowledge of Afghan culture.

Col. Whitehurst said the local exercise also will prepare them better for later training at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La.

Though no deployment plans have been set officially, the brigade could be leaving this fall.

The exercise also will be the brigade’s first field test of the newly acquired Capability Set 13 communication technology, which it fielded in August. The system of improved radios and software helps commanders pinpoint soldiers’ movements and increase connectivity.

Until the exercise, Col. Whitehurst said, the technology had been tested in limited instances in controlled environments.

“We’re pretty excited to see what kind of feedback we get from the training,” he said.

The post advised motorists to anticipate additional traffic on Route 26 between routes 3 and 11 during the exercise.

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