Monday morning, a squadron of the Idaho Army National Guard is in the desert south of Boise for a live-fire training exercise. The soldiers are preparing for a special trip to California, to the Army’s most sought-after training experience.
The Idaho Army National Guard will see its largest deployment in five years this summer. In August, 2,500 soldiers from 25 communities in Idaho, plus a few from Oregon and Montana, are headed to the National Training Center (NTC) in Fort Irwin, California.
Idaho is the first National Guard organization in almost 15 years to go to the NTC.
Colonel Tim Marsano with the Idaho National Guard says a unit getting a chance to go to the Center is a rare privilege.
“It’s important for our soldiers to go down there," Marsano says, "[to] fall in on the other units that they would be expected to work with overseas and train like we fight, which is really what we try to do every day out here."
During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army Guard learned new techniques for non-conventional warfare. Now the Army wants to ensure the Guard gets back to training for conventional warfare as well. The NTC is the Army's training ground for conventional combat, including tank-on-tank warfare. The 116th will take along their 70-ton M1-A2 tanks and other heavy equipment to California for the training.
Marsano says the NTC is like finishing school for soldiers. He says training is critical, in case Idaho’s Guard is called up to go on active duty.
“Now we don’t have any mobilization on the table at this point,” Marsano points out. “We never know when those orders are going to come down and we need to be as prepared as possible, and the Army needs to know that we are ready to go should the balloon go up we need to go overseas.”
The last time the 116th went to the NTC was in 1998. They performed well, winning two of four competitions and tying in another. Marsano says that’s a record Idaho’s current Guard will have to try and beat.
The trip to California is the largest deployment of the 116th since the Guard deployed to Iraq in 2010.
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