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NEWS | Nov. 23, 2012

N.C. National Guard Soldiers get comfortable with new role as Sinai Peninsula observers

By Capt. Olivia Cobiskey 205th Infantry Brigade

CAMP ATTERBURY JOINT MANEUVER TRAINING CENTER, Ind. - "Small arms fire. Sound the alarm!" one Soldier screamed to another in the guard tower as shots echoed in the air.

The Soldiers did not return fire even as the group of angry men screamed and shouted at the Soldiers, pressing their bodies against the front gate, trying to get a reaction.

Not reacting is the hardest thing about this mission, said Staff Sgt. Gregory Forbes, squad leader with 7-32nd Forward Support Company.

"The mission in Egypt is to observe and record. The posture isn't the same it is in Afghanistan, or what it was in Iraq," said Forbes, of Greensboro, N.C., who deployed previously with the 252nd Combined Arms Battalion, Fayetteville N.C.

The Multinational Force and Observers is an independent international organization created by agreement between Egypt and Israel to supervise the implementation of the security provisions of the Treaty of Peace and employ best efforts to prevent any violation of its terms.

Forbes said that the Culminating Training Event has given his squad an opportunity to readjust their posture and to troubleshoot possible glitches they might experience in theater.

In preparation for its upcoming deployment, the 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment, North Carolina National Guard, recently conducted a Culminating Training Event. The CTE allowed the N.C. Soldiers to practice mission critical tasks in order to increase their mission readiness.

On the final day, however, First Army Division East trainers decided to adapt several of the Cumulative Training Exercise scenarios to address the current political tensions, said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Sabo, an observer trainer with the 1-335th Infantry Regiment, 205th Infantry Brigade.

"You don't only train for what you're going to do, you train for what could possibly happen," Sabo said. "As a trainer you want to make the training as stressful as possible, so in the real world, when these situations happen they react, instead of wonder how they should react or be indecisive."

In order to make the CTE more realistic, the observer trainers decided to have the protesters become more aggressive.

Sabo, of Benton, Pa., said it was unlikely the outposts will be overrun by the Bedouin protesters; however, the trainers want to ensure the Soldiers receive engaging and realistic training.

Sgt. Cody Stevens hasn't been disappointed in the training or their upcoming deployment mission, he said. When they found out they were going to be a part of the independent international organization with peacekeeping responsibilities in the Sinai, the Soldiers first checked out the area on Google Earth, then started researching the history of the MFO, Egypt, the Bedouins, and finally have been reading newspapers to stay current on the issues in the region.

"Trying to be hopeful that it doesn't happen, but you always have to be prepared for the worst," said Stevens, of Mount Airy, N.C., who served in Iraq with Forbes. Stevens wears a memorial bracelet for 1st Lt. Leevi K. Barnard, also of Mount Airy, N.C., who was killed May 21, 2009, during that deployment.

To ensure the best possible training, First Army reached out to the 75th Mission Command Training Division and Soldiers from units that have previously deployed to the Sinai. Those units provide subject matter experts, role players and other support to the current training to ensure realism and relevance in the training.

Staff Sgt. George Bennett, of Tijeras, N.M., a site commander with MFO 56, said the training sites at Camp Atterbury are excellent replicas of the remote sites the Soldiers will be working on in the Sinai.

"These sites are excellent training tools," said Bennett, who role-played a command sergeant major during a key leader engagement drill. "It provides the space for Soldiers to practice site procedures, communication, and team building at the squad level."