One of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s two Stryker brigades is in the California desert getting ready for a series of exercises that will take it across the Pacific Ocean later this year.
The 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division took 3,800 soldiers to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin this month.
It’s working alongside more than 2,000 other U.S. troops and South Korean forces for an exercise meant to test how they’d go to battle against a well-armed, industrial enemy, said Brigade Commander Col. Louis Zeisman in a phone interview.
“The battle can go very quickly” because of the speed of the enemy’s tanks and his brigade’s Strykers, Zeisman said.
His brigade’s visit to Fort Irwin is the second major rotation there for a JBLM unit this year. In January, the base’s 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division carried out similar drills practicing how commanders would lead Stryker soldiers against an armored enemy. A battalion of Japanese soldiers participated in that exercise.
The so-called “force on force” exercises are a break from the techniques that soldiers previously practiced at the training center to prepare for combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. For those, soldiers would train to protect civilian populations against hard-to-find insurgents.
Soldiers in Zeisman’s brigade are expected to head overseas later this summer to join a military exercise in Indonesia. The Army is aiming to circulate more soldiers to the Pacific as combat operations wind down in Afghanistan.
Their assignment would be to mentor allied forces and open communication channels between the militaries.
“I don’t think anybody wants to execute any type of war plan in the Pacific,” JBLM senior Army officer Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza said at a forum in DuPont earlier this month in describing the upcoming assignments for Zeisman’s Brigade.
For now, soldiers in the 2nd Brigade are coping with triple-digit summer heat in the “unforgiving terrain” of the Mojave Desert. They are scheduled to come home on July 5.
“They are resilient,” Zeisman said. “It is tough moving up and down these mountains. They never give up.”