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Local soldiers train for Iraq mission

Members of the 401st Engineer Company are at Fort McCoy, preparing for a deployment to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Since their arrival at Fort McCoy in March, soldiers from the 401st, an Army Reserve unit with its home station in Oklahoma City, Okla., have participated in extensive training on equipment and procedures to learn skills they will need to be successful in their mission overseas.

Half of the 401st soldiers are from the 652nd Engineer Company, Ellsworth, and Marquette, Mich.

Company Commander, Capt. Danny Jennejohn, said, "The 401st has been training together for this deployment for the last six months before arrival at Fort McCoy. From our extensive training, our soldiers are very well prepared to deploy and accomplish their mission.

"Motivation is high and the soldiers are proud to serve their country," Jennejohn said. "About half of the 401st is from the 652nd. Several other soldiers of the 401st are from the 341st Engineer Company out of Fort Smith, Ark. This will be the second deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism for many of our soldiers."

While at Fort McCoy, the unit planned and executed training to provide them with specific combat, survival and warrior skills. This training is the cornerstone for priming soldiers for deployment. Soldiers train in an environment and in situations that replicate, as realistically as possible, those they will experience overseas. Soldiers lived in tents in a field location for a portion of the time they were training at Fort McCoy. The training area was surrounded by concertina wire, entry control points and guard towers. Soldiers traveled in convoys. They encountered role players posing as civilians or opposing forces. The training is repetitive and its intensity increases with each iteration.

The ultimate goal is to have soldiers respond intuitively to threats and situations they encounter. The list of required training is extensive. The 401st participated in training related to weapons qualification, Army warrior training, physical fitness, leadership, combat life-saving, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), mounted combat patrol operations, urban operations, entry control point operations, motor vehicle operations and maintenance, protective mask familiarity and confidence, detainee operations, hand-to-hand combat, reflexive fire, grenades, culture/customs/language, land navigation and much more.

The 401st's training culminated in an Army Training and Evaluation Program, which incorporated and tested all aspects of the individual and collective training they had received. Prior to deployment, the unit will receive additional military occupation specialty training and will be validated.

Sgt. 1st Class Brian Fisher, acting first sergeant of the 401st, said, "The training that the soldiers of the 401st have completed at Fort McCoy has been very good. The soldiers and leaders of this company are confident in their abilities, and are highly motivated to deploy, accomplish their mission and return home."

Since Sept. 11, 2001, Fort McCoy has supported the mobilization/ demobilization of more than 84,227 soldiers from nearly 1,600 units located throughout 49 states and territories.