By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
March 11, 2008 - It's dry enough to be Iraq, but Pikes Peak and the rest of Colorado's snow-capped Front Range in the background give it away. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, choppered to the notional Iraqi village of Hamal from Peterson Air Force Base to see how soldiers of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, were progressing in their training. The unit is scheduled to go to Iraq sometime later this year.
A joint security station in the village is manned by Iraqi soldiers and police. The village teems with "Iraqi" men and women. U.S. soldiers training here must learn to deal with their Iraqi comrades, and they confront the same difficulties in language and culture here that they will see in Iraq.
"I was impressed with the training," Mullen told reporters traveling with him.
The unit -- part of 1st Battalion, 67th Armor -- had to face the "challenge of dealing with language, culture and finding that balance of providing security without using excessive force to do that," Mullen explained.
The unit practices finding improvised explosive devices, running cordon-and-search operations, and patrolling techniques. They also learn from the Iraqi role players how to deal with the people.
Mullen said all the soldiers understood that, in the long run, success in Iraq is about delivering security to the people so they can build the economy and raise their children in peace.
The unit has been on the range since March 2 and will stay out until March 13. This is company-level training, and it is built on after-action reports straight from Iraq. Company commander Army Capt. Larry Brown said roughly 50 percent of his soldiers are combat veterans with about 15 percent facing their third tour.
Still, the training is important, "because Iraq changes so quickly. What we saw when we were there last is not necessarily what we will see this time," the captain said.
The unit also is receiving advice from Fort Carson soldiers just back from Iraq.
Mullen was pleased at the soldiers' grasp of the situation in Iraq. "I was actually taken with the maturity of the discussion by those that are going through training for what they had to do," he said.
Mullen recently returned from Iraq, where he spoke with Iraqi leaders in Dora, a neighborhood in Baghdad, and Hawija, a city in Diyala province. "The mayors in Dora and Hawija were talking about the same thing," he said. "The troops aren't perfect, but they are learning."