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Minnesota National Guard
The wait is over; Minnesota Red Bulls enter "The Box"

Red Bulls at NTC FORT IRWIN, California - As the sun peaks the mountain tops on the final day of the Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration phase for the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, nearly 6,000 Soldiers load gear, mount vehicles and await the call to move out of the Rotational Unit Bivouac Area, or RUBA, in Fort Irwin, California, June 10, 2016.

"The movement means the Brigade will be headed into an unfamiliar area where the opposition force has the distinct advantage of knowing the terrain very well and have had a chance to be acclimated to the heat," said Spc. Travis Pugh, a dismounted Infantryman for the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armored Regiment. "We are entering their playground, so we have to be on our toes at all times and never get complacent."

"They" are the opposition force, or OPFOR, comprised of Soldiers from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, an active duty unit dedicated to testing units in "The Box." Now, after two years of preparation, the 1/34th ABCT will enter the force-on-force maneuver phase of their National Training Center rotation, where the Red Bulls will finally square off against the 11th ACR "Blackhorse."

"Being prepared and having a quick distribution of information is key for our rotation at NTC." said Pugh. "At any time we have to be ready to move a whole battalion or even brigade element as quickly as possible so we can re-establish our foot print and bring the fight back to the OPFOR."

One of the larger tasks during RSOI was ensuring each piece of equipment has been checked, double-checked and staged with Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, or MILES, gear installed and validated. Using lasers, sensors and blank cartridges, MILES simulates an actual battle to give Soldiers the most realistic training possible.

Also, Soldiers here get to train on systems that just aren't always available, said Pugh. While at Fort Irwin's Range 16, Pugh and other select Soldiers from around the Brigade participated in a live-fire exercise utilizing the Javelin - a Soldier-carried, fire-and-forget anti-tank missile used to disable vehicles with a single strike.

"We've come here to be able to leave better Soldiers than we came," said 1st Lt. Sean Bottin, executive officer for Alpha Company, 1-194 AR (CAB). "From the individual Soldier to team and squad, all the way up to the battalion and brigade level, we will improve and integrate our fighting and movement drills on a massive scale."

Along with the training opportunity comes the extended time away from families, Bottin said. It's not the easiest thing to be away from spouses, kids and family for as long as is expected.

In addition to the 1/34th ABCT Facebook page, which has provided loved ones back home a first-hand account of what their Soldiers are doing at Fort Irwin, Bottin said his family is connected with his unit's Family Readiness Group and Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Network. These two programs provide support to the families of those away from home by sharing information and providing support when needed.

June 13, 2016
by Sgt. William Boecker
1st Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs



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