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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Guard's 877th training at Fort McCoy

An Alabama National Guard unit is at Fort McCoy preparing for their deployment to Afghanistan.

The 877th Engineer Battalion is based out of Hamilton and joined the 920th Engineer Company from New Mexico in May for their pre-deployment training.

At Fort McCoy, the 877th has trained on combat, survival and warrior skills. Soldiers train in an environment and situations that replicate, as realistically as possible, what they will experience overseas.

Soldiers lived in field tents in a training area surrounded by concertina wire, entry control points and guard towers. Soldiers traveled in convoys as they would in country and encountered role players posing as civilians on the battlefield or opposing forces. The training is repetitive, and its intensity increases with each iteration so that soldiers can respond intuitively to threats and situations they encounter.

The 877th 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 877th'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.

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I grew up in the military. Mom was an Air Force nurse for a few years, dad was a navigator on B-52s, among other things. One grandfather served in World War II, uncle is retired Navy, other grandfather and great-uncle served in Korea and a cousin is currently serving in the Marine Corps. Currently, I'm the military reporter for the Great Falls Tribune in Montana. Previously, 


As a military kids, we moved all over. As an adult, I've traveled all over and moved for work. But now, I'm putting down roots in Montana with my boyfriend. We just bought a house and are slowly but surely making it our home. We have more land that we know what to do with at the moment. Now we're getting a garden started, tearing down walls and having loads of fun at what we call the Homestead.

In a part life, I did PR for the guy who built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall, social media for the National Museum of Health and Medicine, before that, edited two military technology magazines for a publishing group in the DC area and before that, I was the military reporter (among other things) at the Montgomery Advertiser, covering Maxwell Air Force Base, the Alabama National Guard, veterans and anything else military related in the area. And in between all of that, I leave town, preferably the country, whenever possible. It all started when I spent a semester in New Zealand.

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